From budding entrepreneurs in northern communities to Indigenous and francophone songwriters trying to break into international music markets, several Manitoba groups are in line to benefit from a $4.9-million federal cash injection for economic development.
A business incubator that aims to help build startup companies in the North plans to be up and running in The Pas later this year, thanks to a $1.4-million portion of the funding. It's one of six projects granted funding from the federal department of Western Economic Diversification Canada.
University College of the North president Doug Lauvstad said there has already been interest from potential entrepreneurs about the incubator — which is a project involving the university, North Forge Technology Exchange and Arctic Gateway Group — especially among people who want to look into how the North can contribute to the digital economy.
A large part of the incubator's work will involve connecting northern entrepreneurs to mentors who can help them develop, licence and market their products, Lauvstad said.
"The northern economy is changing. We were a mining, forestry, hydro development kind of economy, and those economies are still there, but the world is shifting to very much online digital economy, and the North needs to change with the times. So the hope is that this incubator will help those digital entrepreneurs out there that want to set up a business, want to get their business online," he said.
"There's a lot of creativity and pent-up demand in the North. I think northern people and northern Indigenous people are very entrepreneurial."
Manitoba artists trying to market their music overseas will see a $869,600 increase for programs to help them develop the business side of their creative work at the Manitoba Music Industry Association.
The money will support about 100 artists from local Indigenous and francophone communities, said association executive director Sean McManus. A group of Indigenous artists will take a trip to Germany later this year, and francophone artists will focus on French-speaking markets in Quebec, France and elsewhere in Europe, for example.
"Indigenous artists in Western Canada often come from communities or backgrounds where they haven't had the kinds of mentorship that maybe other artists have had, or the kinds of connections to the music industry world, so our goal is to work specifically with them to help fill in those gaps. There's also really unique opportunities around how we think about Indigenous identity within the creative industries," McManus said.
The funds were announced Thursday morning, following a trumpet performance by Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who played Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World, alongside local musician Raffy Ramiro.
The funding includes $1.5 million for the Communities Economic Development Fund to develop industries in northern Manitoba; $525,600 for upgraded equipment and food-processors training at Brandon's Assiniboine Community College for the agri-food sector; $250,000 toward a youth entrepreneurship program at UCN in The Pas; and $200,000 for a building operators technician program at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development.
Ouellette said the federal government is working to diversify the economy in northern Manitoba, beyond support for the railway at the Port of Churchill.
"We've had a lot of support for that rail line, but also part of this is making sure we have continued training for people in those communities to create those jobs. If we have a means to get things to market, if they can develop the products to get to market and they have the skills to do that, then we can start building all those foundation stones to be successful," the Liberal MP said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 2:24 PM CDT: Writethrough
3:57 PM: Name fixed.