Remember a couple of years ago when there was a lot of worry that the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly would mean the unravelling of the Canadian grain trade hub at Portage and Main?
I was one of the worried ones.
The anxiety was caused by the notion that the CWB was a core concern that involved commodity groups, farm groups, agencies like the Canadian Grain Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute, and of course most of Canada’s grain companies. If you took apart the CWB, not only would there be less grain trade gravity in downtown Winnipeg holding it all together, the thinking went, but the end of the monopoly might mean some of the remaining grain cos would die and there would be little hub left.
There were also worries that bodies like CIGI could be sucked away to places like Saskatoon, which are in the core of the Prairie farming area and which would be keen to snag them.
That worry seems to be mostly gone and if anything new companies and organizations seem to be flocking to Winnipeg. A couple of weeks ago the federal and Manitoba governments announced $20 million in funding to support a Winnipeg-based “Grain Innovation Hub” and that’s great news for the organizations around here, who are all focused on doing innovation and development work with Prairie crops. And it sinks the foundations of the existing grain trade hub even deeper.
For a while, about a decade ago, there was talk of pulling some of the Portage and Main based organizations down south to the University of Manitoba campus, to go into a proposed $200 million grain centre of excellence, but I’m glad that idea is effectively dead with this new money for the Grain Innovation Hub. I like downtowns because I think they work and bring everybody together so they can interact. That’s why they exist. So building on the existing nexus of grain and farm organizations here seems to me like a great idea, rather than pulling its natural organic reality apart to force some of it into an engineered structure.
The other day I popped across the road to visit a new resident of the Portage and Main grain complex. Looky here at this video I made of my visit to see who I met with, and for more ramblings about this famously grain-centred area. New entrants like this, while not employing a thousand people or building new buildings, represent to me why there’s a grain hub here and it ain’t going away.