While many businesses anxiously wait for the pandemic crisis to dissipate, allowing them to get back to normal, other growing Manitoba businesses are trying to figure out how to keep pace with demand.
Four of those businesses received a total of a $3.4 million in interest-free loans from Western Economic Diversification’s business scale-up and productivity program.
Terry Duguid, the Winnipeg MP who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for WED, said the investments are a demonstration of the government of Canada’s commitment to support local businesses to become more competitive both at home and abroad.
In many ways, the four businesses are great examples of the resiliency of the local economy that shows local entrepreneurs’ ability to continue to produce industry-leading products and services and create employment in the province.
● Permission Click received $1,565,783 to add to its sales force which effectively speeds up the company’s ability to grow its sales team by a couple of years. The company makes a workflow automation and policy compliance platform for schools from kindergarten to Grade 12.
The automation of paper-based forms and workflows is gaining traction with school boards around the world, allowing for faster data collection and approvals and increased policy compliance. It is already being used by millions of students, parents and school staff in more than 14,000 schools in 50 countries.
CEO Chris Johnson said because of the lengthy sales cycle required to introduce new products to school divisions, it means it can cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars before it starts earning anything from new salespeople.
A few days before the WED funding announcement the company officially became a partner with a large existing service provider who will now deploy its large sales force to introduce Permission Click to even more potential customers.
● Trainfo, a smart, young Winnipeg specialized technology company, received $460,700 to staff up its efforts to expand into the North American market for its unique solutions that can prevent traffic delays and collisions at rail crossings.
Using sensors and artificial intelligence and machine learning, Trainfo has already shown in about 60 installations that it can reduce delays and accidents at rail crossings by 25 per cent for one per cent of the cost.
Garreth Rempel, CEO of the Winnipeg company, said the company will use the interest-free loan to ramp up production of marketing materials to get the word out. It is already partnering with a first-responder dispatching company to help ease transportation delays — train crossings delay about 30 per cent of all calls — that occur for that mission-critical service.
He believes the WED funding alone will help the company triple revenue over the next two years as more and more municipalities become aware that even if they do not have at least $50 million to build an underpass, there is another option to help deal with a problem that is one of the most dangerous parts of urban transportation.
● Global Drain Technologies Inc. received $400,000 to integrate a new advanced manufacturing process into its 50-person stainless steel drain manufacturing business.
Tyler Gompf, the CEO of the company, said supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and new tariffs made it more challenging to secure certain components. The new funding will allow the company to manufacture those parts in-house.
The company specializes in drainage solutions for the booming agri-food processing industry. Since acquiring patents and technology from a Winnipeg inventor, the company which just moved into a new production facility, has increased the number of products it makes from six to 100 in the past couple of years and is now in tight trying to keep up with demand.
● Prairie Fava, out of Glenboro, Man., received $1,025,773 to scale-up its production capabilities and to continue to open up new markets in North America for fava beans, an up-and-comer in the food market.
The WED funding will help in the purchase of new equipment that will allow the company to commercialize new value-added food ingredients and consumer products targeted at the consumer packaged goods, food service, and food manufacturing markets.
Hailey Jefferies, company CEO, said fava is becoming an in-demand ingredient for plant-based meats, gluten-free baking and other applications.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.