CentrePort Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba gets $2.3 million funding from federal government

Cash puts CentrePort on track

Commitment ensures funding until 2017

By: Martin Cash

Winnipeg Free Press

Posted: 07/21/2012 1:00 AM

CentrePort Canada has secured a good portion of its operating funding through to March 2017 with a $2.3-million commitment Friday from the federal government.

Maybe just as encouraging for its future viability is the inland port is on track in developing businesses that will generate revenue toward its eventual goal of self-sufficiency.

In making the funding announcement on behalf of the federal Department of Western Economic Diversification, Manitoba MP Vic Toews said the infrastructure CentrePort Canada is developing in partnership with all three levels of government and the private sector is going to “make Winnipeg the hub that it once was and will be again.”

But he said the government does not intend to continue to pump public money into CentrePort indefinitely.

“The aim of CentrePort is not to keep it floating on government money,” Toews said. “The aim is to create the infrastructure so that businesses can provide the jobs so that it will eventually be entirely self-sufficient.”

CentrePort Canada operates with an annual budget of about $1 million with a professional staff of three full-time people plus two support staff and a half-time chief financial officer. It also receives funding from the province.

CentrePort CEO Diane Gray said the organization has no intention of becoming significantly larger than it is, but it does have plans in the works that would eventually create revenue-generating assets able to grow in the future.

Chief among them is the development of a shared-use rail facility on land the province acquired from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. during land purchases required to build CentrePort Canada Way — the highway that’s now 70 per cent complete and will connect the Perimeter Highway near Saskatchewan Avenue with Inkster Boulevard.

The province has everything in place to transfer the land — about 405 hectares south of Inkster and west of Sturgeon Road — to CentrePort Canada.

Gray said a preliminary study has already been done to determine the appropriateness of developing some sort of rail facility on the site. Consultants have been retained to do more research to identify the kind of industrial activity that will make most sense on the land CentrePort will own.

Gray has often made the point it’s never been CentrePort’s vision to have CN and/or CP relocate intermodal yards to the inland port’s airport location.

The specifics of the facility — that would be accessible to all three of the major railroads with a presence on CentrePort’s footprint (the third is BNSF) — have not been determined. The idea is it would be be able to grow with demand.

“What we are thinking about is a rail facility as well as a major industrial park for rail-intensive business to provide a direct feed of business directly to the rail facility,” Gray said. “We are not talking about capturing rail business from other parts of the city. The idea is a greenfield generation of new business to develop the facility.”

The site is just south of CP’s main line and Gray said that location in and of itself ought to attract business.

That’s because there are no locations available in the city for a rail-intensive business to develop, even if it wanted to, and the best facilities are off main lines.

“Even if it’s a heavy rail user that really does warrant direct service that can generate a unique trainload of business, where do you locate that in Winnipeg? It doesn’t happen,” said Gray.

She indicated a more identifiable project plan might be in place in a year’s time. But she said an idea that seems to be gaining traction is what she refers to as a “stuffing” facility, in which containers would be brought in and unloaded. Those goods would then be distributed by truck and the empty container would be stuffed with product at another part of the facility. It would then be loaded back onto CP’s main line, headed back to the port and onto a ship with the container, spending little time sitting empty.

“This is a streamlined operation model that makes business sense to all the supply-chain players involved,” she said.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2012 B4


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