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Growth in local business reflects province's report

By Angela Brown, Portage Daily Graphic

Some local representatives say a growth in the retail market in Portage la Prairie reflects the province's report of improved numbers in its latest financial report.

In the province's mid-year financial report, announced by Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk, more Manitobans are working compared to the same time last year. As well, there are more housing starts, and retail sales are up by 6.3 per cent, higher than in other provinces.

The Portage and District Chamber of Commerce has noticed an increase in development for businesses in the past year.

"The majority of them (businesses) are reporting good years," said Daniel Bolton, president of the local Chamber, adding businesses are still waiting to find out their year-end results though.

"Coming out of a recession to put numbers up like that and show an increase, it's a great thing," he said of the province's report.

Bolton has noticed some new businesses going up in Portage, such as the new restaurant at the Portage Mall, the new Shopper's Drug Mart under construction, and the expansion of the in-door mini golf location in central Portage.

"There has been quite a few new businesses that are expanding," said Bolton. "I know that Gabler Welding is building a new shop too. There is quit a bit going on. It is great to see."

The province's mid-year report says for the 2010-2011 period it is expected there will be some improvement to finances. As a result, the loss is expected to be $471 million, instead of $545 million as projected with the 2010 budget.

Wowchuk says, in a press release, Manitoba experienced more economic growth in 2010, compared to 2009 when there wasn't any growth reported. The province has a five-year economic plan to attempt to balance the budget.

Locally, Portage la Prairie Mayor Earl Porter said while he has seen some growth in the area this past year he wants to be careful in drawing quick conclusions.

However, he has seen more housing built as a sign of growth in Portage.

"We have had more housing starts, that's for sure, with Kelly K and stuff in the north end," he said. "There has been a lot of activity going on in housing."

Porter said though, with the U.S. not faring well financially, that can have an impact across the border.

So he couldn't speculate how the next five years might turn out for Manitoba.

He added Canada has been criticized for the amount of debt facing its residents, so he is concerned about that impact.

"We are now in the same spot that the United States was four or five years ago, as far as credit goes.

So I think we have to be cautiously optimistic," Porter said, adding Canadians are "over-extended" in their spending in general.

Portage MLA David Faurschou hopes the province is beginning to make some progress in reducing its debt.

"I'm pleased to see the province's economy is performing better than anticipated," he said. "Hopefully, Manitobans will be able to be rewarded by seeing the provincial budget balanced earlier than was forecast. It was supposed to be another three years before we get back in the blue ink. I am hoping the budget will be balanced earlier than anticipated"

In the Portage area as well as other parts of Manitoba, Faurschou has seen a shortage of affordable housing, and hopes with the province's report of more housing starts taking place since last year, that this problem is being addressed.

"We were very short of affordable housing and hopefully there will be more constructed next year," he said.

Also, while the province has said more Manitobans are working compared to last year, Faurschou said locally, he is aware of some setbacks in the agricultural sector.

"We have seen a paring back here in Portage la Prairie, even at McCains ..., " he said, adding there had been a shortage of processing potatoes.

Because there has previously been less demand for potatoes, fewer acres were planted, he explained.

"Everything is not as rosy as statistics go, because there is a lag time in the analysis of the information," added Faurschou. "It is only a snapshot of one juncture in time. Then, things have a way of changing."

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