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The valley forges ahead.


A new spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work together means bright days ahead for the five main centres in the Pembina Valley.

The era of fierce competition and rivalry among the five towns in the Pembina Valley is coming to an end, community leaders and business people throughout the region say.

The drought, along with agricultural trade wars, uncertainty arising from free trade, the value of the Canadian dollar, high interest rates and the impending Goods and Services Tax have made cooperation and planning new catchwords in the Valley.

"We've come to realize our best chance for long term growth is through cooperation," says Axel Meyer, secretary-treasurer of the Pembina Valley Development Corporation (PVDC). "The rivalry has been overcome to a great extent because the spirit and the willingness to work together is there."

Meyer, also the economic development officer for the Altona Chamber of Commerce and a councillor for the town, explains spin-off benefits from any new industry locating in the region strengthens the whole Valley. "The main thing is to get them here," he stresses.

The five major population centres in the area are Winkler, Morden, Altona, Carman and Morris. Strategically located in the heartland of North America, the region is well known for having some of the richest farmland in the continent. Proximity to Winnipeg and the major American markets, coupled with excellent transportation routes by rail or truck, a reliable workforce with competitive wage scales, and an entrepreneurial spirit have all helped the region gain an outstanding reputation in the manufacturing, industrial, retail and tourism sectors.

Head offices of many international firms like D.W. Friesen & Sons, leaders in the North American book and magazine printing industry and Triple E Industries, manufacturers of motor homes and recreational vehicles are located in the Valley.

"We intend to make the `90s the most progressive decade this region has ever seen," states PVDC manager Sam Schellenberg. The PVDC increased its 1990 budget for promotion, "by a good one-third," he says, adding that in March, he and Axel Meyer provided timely information about the region at the Canadian Embassy in West Germany and the the CeBit electronic show in Hanover.

PVDC Chairman Henry Wiebe, also mayor of Winkler, says he's working towards more grassroots participation in the `90s. "We've fallen down in the past by not involving as many people at this level," he explains.

Carman economic development officer Ilija Dragojevic is developing a process for economic development strategies built on the foundation of grassroots participation. "The process of getting everyone involved and working together is more important than the strategy," he stresses. "The community must decide where it wants to go. No one person can make that decision for the town."

"The competition factor keeps communities from working together - why would you want to send an industry into the next town when you could have it here?" He adds the success of regional cooperation during recent studies undertaken by the PVDC is weakening the competition factor among Pembina Valley towns.

The region has not been successful in recent years in attracting large industries from outside the area, but throughout the Valley, the emphasis remains on encouraging development from within - helping existing businesses cope with changing economic conditions and encouraging them to add new jobs wherever possible. "Losing an established industry is much worse than not getting a new one," says Mayor Wiebe.

Throughout the Valley, innovative business people are identifying new markets and filling them. One such person is Real Tetrault, owner of Northern Harvest near Emerson. He opened a small mill three years ago to supplement his farm income; today, it employs five people and is fully equipped to dehull and grind oats for edible markets.

He says about 70 percent of his product is sold to midwestern U.S. markets, reaching a population about double the size of Canada. These markets, adds Tetrault, can be reached within one day by truck, compared to two and-a-half days to markets in Eastern Canada. He expects increased costs of shipping raw agricultural products will result in more processing to a point where they are salable to other firms in Canada or the U.S.

In Winkler, Dave Dyck, owner of Winkler Canvas, started another company with his brother Willie to recycle tires. Continental Rubber has become the first company in the province to perform this type of work. The brothers started stockpiling tires nearly a year ago and started manufacturing in mid-February. They are currently looking for dealers to market their other products, which include sidewalk blocks, interlocking bricks, fatigue mats for dairy barns and horse trailers, and mud flaps.

Despite the threat of a weakened economy, sales at Winkler Canvas increased 30 percent last year, with projected annual increases of 15 to 20 percent. "We've never been as busy as this year," adds Dyck. "For us, the future looks very bright."

In Carman, Lawrence Aubin, owner of Aubin Nurseries, is also expecting 15 to 20 percent increases in sales. Founded by his father 63 years ago, the nursery has grown from 72 acres to over 500 acres. He says the nursery is currently the third or fourth largest supplier of nursery stock in the prairies, with excellent prospects of becoming the largest supplier by the turn of the century.

"We've gone as far as we can in the retail sector, but there's lots of room for expansion at the wholesale level as long as you provide quality products, good service and competitive prices," he says. The Valley's stable workforce, fertile soil, good water supply and the expertise of an established company have all combined to help his nursery satisfy a customer base that ranges from northern Ontario to the Alberta/British Columbia border.

New construction throughout the Valley is another indicator the entire area is growing and prospering, despite fears of a national recession. Altona, for example, has been working hard for several years to promote itself as a good place for new business starts, says Mayor Art Dyck, adding the town is beginning to see some positive results from its campaign. He predicts Altona will have between $2 million and $3 million worth of new construction annually until 1993, with most of it generated by the advent of new businesses and industries.

D.W. Friesen's "constant expansions", a new $1 million civic centre, Red River Mutual Insurance Company's expansion and several new housing developments are, "a sound signal Altona is a safe place for new business to locate," says the mayor. This year, a new Chrysler dealership will be opening, the Credit Union is undergoing a $350,000 expansion, Loewen Manufacturing is expanding and a new 35-bed hospital is in the architectural drawing stages.

Carman is heading into the new decade with renewed energy, enthusiasm and optimism. Ten of the 13 storefronts have been filled, about a dozen new businesses and industries have opened their doors and several existing businesses have come under new ownership.

This spring, a $1 million, five-sheet curling rink and nearby golf clubhouse will be opening, reports Mayor Bob McKenzie The dining room/lounge area has a seating capacity of 200, while another 75 can be seated on the outdoor deck.

The town is in the process of opening a "full fledged" industrial park, "with extremely good land for light industry and warehousing," says McKenzie. Walinga, an Ontario-based machinery manufacturer, plans to start construction on a 3,000 square foot warehouse in the park this spring.

Forty-one new jobs are expected to be created by mid-summer thanks to a sewing factory and a brick manufacturing outlet, which both began operations in December.

Morden and Winkler are benefiting from government funding to upgrade water and sewer systems. In Morden, plans for a new hotel/convention centre near the 18-hole golf course were hampered by the town's sewer system, says secretary-treasurer Abe Bergmann.

Land acquisition for a four-lane highway between the two towns is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with construction commenting in 1991.

New developments in Morden are highlighted by a $14.6 million agriculture research station, along with a $1.2 million elementary school, a $1 million hospital expansion, plus various business expansions and housing developments.

Government approval of a $40 million regional hospital is expected to help the region attract more specialists, enhancing the medical practices of those physicians already located here, says Jack Steedsman, co-chair of the planning committee.

"It's the biggest project this area has ever seen," he says, adding that subcontractors, restaurants and motels will be kept busy when construction gets underway in two or three years. The hospital is scheduled to be built in the Morden/Winkler corridor. The Morden Legion has already started fund raising for a $500,000 C.T. scanner, one of many new medical services to be introduced in the region.

PHOTO : Winkler businessman, Dave Dyck, opened the first tire recycling business in the province.

PHOTO : The company manufactures mud flaps for transport companies, sidewalk blocks, interlocking

PHOTO : bricks and fatigue mats.
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Title Annotation:Pembina Valley, Manitoba industrial development
Author:Terichow, Gladys
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:May 1, 1990
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