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Local efforts recognized at EDAM awards

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

Vern May, PRED executive director, speaking at last week's awards evening at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)

Vern May, PRED executive director, speaking at last week's awards evening at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)

It was fitting that Portage la Prairie played host to the Economic Developers Association of Manitoba's inaugural Economic Development Awards Evening.

It was a clean sweep of awards at the first annual event held last week at Stride Place, as Roquette Pea Processing Plant was named the Project of the Year while Vern May, executive director of Portage Regional Economic Development (PRED) was named Rising Star in Economic Development.

“We were pretty sure Roquette might be a Portage award but to get the other one is unbelievable,” says May. “To be selected for this award by a jury of your peers who are working in economic development and know what good work is, it's pretty rewarding.”

The Roquette project, a joint initiative between the city of Portage, RM, Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Agriculture, saw the securement of a foreign investment of more than $400 million, which marks the largest single development in the province's food processing history. The facility, expected to be completed in 2019, will be the largest pea processing plant of its kind in the world and creating upwards of 160 permanent positions.

The Portage-based project beat out the Rural Development Institute's (RDI) Making Sense of Manitoba Rural Regions project, the Pinawa Community Development Corporation's North Forge East Business Incubator and the town of Neepawa and Minnedosa Area CDC's joint project What's the Big Idea. 

“It was kind of one of those awkward predicaments in my mind once I saw the ballot. To see Roquette – of course I thought was a strong candidate and certainly the membership of the association saw that as well,” adds May. 

May, who stepped into his role at PRED at the beginning of this year, has spent over three years in the economic development field and quickly made an impact in Portage. In 2017 he has attracted more than $25 million in new development to the area while strengthening the organization's image via increased media exposure while also authoring a weekly newspaper column.

“I think largely, economic development is an invisible agency,” adds May. “Most of our victories, often don't get recognized because our wins aren't our own they belong to the council of the day.

May beat out Ashern's Clayton Gibson and Pinawa's Shane Li as the EDAM's 2017 Rising Star in Economic Development.



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