A positive picture of Manitoba’s economy resurging after COVID was painted by Minister of Economic Development, Investment and Trade Cliff Cullen as part of the Economic Development Breakfast hosted by the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce at Quarry Oaks Golf Course on Tuesday morning.
He praised the region for their leadership.
“Steinbach is a real driver, there’s no doubt about that,” he told the crowd. “It’s an important part of the province and your region.”
He said the province continues to rebound after the effects of COVID, pointing to a 4.4 percent growth in the economy last year, and a record unemployment rate which according to labour force statistics released Friday is at 3.5 percent, the lowest percentage the province has seen since statistics began being kept in 1976.
Manitoba’s overall job numbers, the number of individuals working full time and part time in July increased to 673,200 compared to 670,700 in June.
He admitted the labour shortage continues to be the biggest challenge and said the Canada-Manitoba Job Grant supplied more than $8 million in funding to 375 businesses during the first intake that closed June 10. These funds will result in nearly 5,500 employees being trained. An additional $2 million will be granted in the second intake period which opens in September.
Cullen also talked about his government’s focus on reducing red tape, striving for tax competitiveness, and supporting a diverse economy.
But he cautioned that they can’t do it all alone.
“We have to make sure we are aligned with the thoughts of the business community,” he said.
That also applies to improving labour, and Cullen said they are working with the business community and educational institutions to further that goal.
“We’re looking everywhere we can to get people into the labour force,” he said. “We set aside a lot of money in terms of getting people educated and skilled for the jobs that are here today and the jobs that are going to be here tomorrow.”
Cullen praised local businesses for being leaders.
“I really see this region being innovative,” he said. “What you’re doing here is exactly what we’re trying to do across the rest of the province.”
While there are still challenges, Cullen said there’s a lot of good things happening.
“People in general are a lot more optimistic,” he said.
He also praised the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce for their diligence.
“The Chamber is a tremendous resource for the business community. They’re a tremendous resource for us as government as well,” he said. “It helps us get a lens on what’s going on with the business community.”