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They’ve never seen ‘great’

They’ve never seen ‘great’

They’ve never seen ‘great’

His frustration was tangible. He paced the floor, head down and eyes darting back and forth as if he was intently searching for something – an answer. The tension hung like a thick fog until finally he came to a stop in the middle of the crowded room. “The problem,” he declared, “is that none of these guys have ever seen the business be any good!”
The man was Doug McColl, a fourteen year veteran of the professional wrestling game, who was lamenting the conflict that he experienced when trying to direct young talent and make them understand the big picture of the business at hand. McColl was a veteran of wrestling’s territory days, when a journeyman could make a living in any one of six wrestling territories across the country. That had all changed after the global rise of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, reducing the opportunities for many to earn a salary in the game. In fact, by the early 1990’s, the industry in Canada was in critical condition – the local “superstars” reduced to weekend warrior status. Those wrestlers on their ascent, clung to every opportunity to advance, but they weren’t working with a business model that was road-tested and proven to yield significant gates and, in turn, the money one needed to thrive.
I’m reminded of Doug’s analysis when I see the negativity among Portage residents on social media. It seems that no matter what decision is made, what approach is initiated, or what action is taken, there is a dogpile of criticism that is leveled from the community toward Council, Administration, and a few even land in my mailbox as well. Typically, this comes from folks that haven’t exercised their voice in a forum where they could influence change. I myself, have shut down these channels from popping up on my screen when I go online, because the dialogue has become simply unbearable. That negativity, like a bad itch, only gets worse when you scratch it.
At some level, we cast the blame on the so-called “entitled” millennials, the young adults that should be poised to become our future leaders. When I consider the timeline of significant events in Portage la Prairie’s economic landscape, I wonder if it’s simply a case of learning from your environment. Consider that a 25-year old who was born and raised here never saw the City at its best. In their childhood, they grew up at a time when the air base closed down, when Campbell’s Soup withdrew, when Safeway decided to close their store and as we watched the Mall die a slow and agonizing death. This is their frame of reference. They might not imagine that there is a positive course of action to be taken and that there is hope on the horizon.
We might be able to give our young people a pass on ownership of this community problem as well as our neighbours that have only been here for the past fifteen years or less. Now we must  defer to our elders and remind them of a time when healthy local trade and industrial growth created a thriving community. You were here – you saw it firsthand and you know what is possible. Can you remember it?
If you forget, you can expect to soon be reminded. The renewed interest in industrial, commercial and residential investment here is about to create a domino effect of positive results that will be felt community-wide. Beginning with the Roquette announcement and those 150 new permanent positions, we are also seeing investment interest from national franchises, large scale residential developers, local investors, and some grassroots entrepreneurs that changes the frame of reference for the current generation. That dark cloud that we’re living under is beginning it dissipate and behind it, a glorious future awaits.
We needn’t shake our heads woefully as we see the success of others around us. Positive change and progress is coming. So, we can hide behind our keyboards and continue to bash every effort to embrace the positive shift in front of us, or we can get on the bandwagon now and help to foster the enthusiasm about the resurgence of Portage la Prairie and district.
Maybe for a great number of our citizens, they’ve never seen Portage at its best. The concern that keeps me awake at night now, though is this: If greatness has become so foreign, will we recognize it when it’s right in front of us? Creating and RETAINING that threshold of success requires that we do.
Opportunity is knocking in the Portage region so let’s answer the door. You can find me in the office at 800 Saskatchewan Avenue West, reach me by e-mail at vmay@plprecd.ca, call me at 204-856-5000. Be sure to keep up with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PLPRED.
by Vern May



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