CentrePort Canada Inc. in Winnipeg has embarked on an outreach campaign to North American companies that have experienced supply chain disruptions during COVID-19.
The goal of the project is to encourage businesses to come to Manitoba — “the heart of the continent” — and set up in CentrePort.
The 20,000-acre trimodal inland port and foreign trade zone is located partly in Winnipeg and partly in the adjacent Rural Municipality of Rosser.
Diane Gray, CentrePort president and CEO, says the campaign will target companies in advanced manufacturing and value-added agri-business.
CentrePort is hoping to capitalize on the fact that the supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic have led many companies to re-evaluate how they operate.
Many of these businesses are thinking it might be a good idea to keep their chain of suppliers and business partners closer to home.
They are prepared to exchange the lower cost of an international supply chain for the greater certainty that their businesses won’t be disrupted and their customers disgruntled.
Put another way, they are looking at shifting from a just-in-time inventory strategy to a just-in-case supply chain model.
It’s the only inland port in North America with connections to three modes of transportation… It’s also the largest, at 20,000 acres,
— Diane Gray
To get its outreach campaign going, CentrePort is looking for a business development consultant who can convince companies of the benefits of locating in North America’s largest tri-modal inland port.
“After we have found the right person, it will probably take a couple of years to analyze the supply chain situation,” said Gray.
CentrePort has high-quality industrial land with immediate access to road, rail and air connections., she says.
“It’s the only inland port in North America with connections to three modes of transportation,” said Gray. “It’s also the largest, at 20,000 acres. Two thousand acres of that are in development right now.”
More than 150 companies have set up in CentrePort since the facility became fully operational in 2018.
CentrePort recently signed a deal with Focus Equities Inc., a Victoria-based real estate developer, to develop Rail Park, a 665-acre industrial park for companies that need rail connections to their facilities.
CentrePort says Rail Park is unique in Canada because it combines industrial space and logistics infrastructure.
The facility will offer businesses that ship in large volumes the ability to access, transfer and transport goods between road and rail.
Rail Park is about five miles northwest of Canadian Pacific Railway’s main marshaling yards, and lies just south of that railroad’s east-west main line. It is also close to Winnipeg International Airport.
“With global supply-chain issues affecting the industry, there has never been greater demand in North America for a centralized logistics and shipping location for rail, truck and air than now,” said Focus owner Ken Mariash.
The company has started developing the first 200 acres of Rail Park.
“We have seven or eight companies interested in locating there now, such as manufacturers of agricultural products and fertilizers and freight forwarders,” said Mariash. “They’re companies that need rail-truck and long haul-short haul connections.”
He expects to have the 200 acres developed by the fall of 2023.
“But I anticipate it will take about 10 years to complete all 665 acres of Rail Park,” said Mariash.
Focus, which has been developing real estate, energy and infrastructure projects for more than 50 years, has done “10 or 12” projects like Rail Park, says Mariash.
“They’re big, complex and expensive,” he said. “Sometimes we have to build our own roads to get to our developments.”
Rail Park is expected to create more than 4,800 direct and indirect jobs.
Chris Lorenc, president of Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, says CentrePort will provide a major boost to Winnipeg’s role as an important global transportation and infrastructure centre, just as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The most important part of the CentrePort story is that, when it began, it was thought of as a myth” said Lorenc. “But, since then, it has dramatically shown that Manitoba’s geographic position enables smart investment in all matters of national and international trade, transportation and logistics. “Winnipeg has shown that you don’t need to be a major metropolis to do that. What’s needed is a central geographic location like Winnipeg’s and commitment by the public and private sectors.”
Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba, says
CentrePort is good not only for the economy of Winnipeg and its immediate area, but also of the whole province.
“Manitoba is at the centre of North America,” said Strain. “All three major railroads and two transcontinental highways pass through Manitoba, and we have Canada’s only northern seaport, which is Churchill on Hudson Bay.”