Manitoba Trade Action Plan

As Manitoba’s official trade development agency, the WTC Winnipeg has undertaken a project to identify 4-6 clusters of economic activity in which Manitoba is most globally competitive. The objective is to develop a trade-related action plan for each of the selected clusters and to build the necessary linkages to enable their growth through international markets.

The project consists of four distinct phases:

1. Cluster mapping and engagement with key stakeholders

The WTC Winnipeg retained the services of Dr. Greg Spencer to perform an intensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Manitoba economy.

2. Identification and prioritising

Publish Dr. Spencer’s report which identifies the Manitoba sub-sectors with the highest degree of global competitiveness. (the report is available below)

3. Develop Trade Action Plans

Engage with key stakeholders and the private sector to identify key trade activities and develop one plan per cluster.

4. Activate Trade Action Plans

In collaboration with key stakeholders, undertake the activities identified in the Trade Action Plans.

Towards a Trade Strategy for Manitoba: Building on Local Clusters for Global Success

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the overall objective of this project?

We are seeking to improve the global economic competitiveness of the province of Manitoba through targeted and intensified trade activities.

How will this project benefit Manitoba?

Ultimately, it will allow Manitoba companies to focus on highly targeted global markets and opportunities. This will lead to greater competitiveness, expanded trade in existing markets, trade with new markets, improved skills and more high-quality jobs for Manitobans.

How will this project benefit my business?

This project will lead to the identification of specific trade opportunities and execution of activities* that seek to capitalise on those opportunities.

Companies engaged in this initiative will experience expanded trade in existing markets, trade with new markets, improved skills and/or more high-quality jobs. The project will also provide a platform to collaborate with local businesses and other stakeholders. Greater detail will be available as we develop the Trade Action Plans.

*Activities may include: seminars, trade missions, specialized workshops, matchmaking opportunities.

What are Manitoba’s most competitive economic clusters?

  • Digital & Precision Agriculture
  • Proteins
  • Next Generation Buses
  • Transportation & Logistics
  • Aerospace
  • Urban Economy Cluster (digital services, insurance, creative & cultural)

What is a cluster?

“Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. Clusters encompass an array of linked industries and other entities important to competition. They include, for example, suppliers of specialized inputs such as components, machinery, and services, and providers of specialized infrastructure. Clusters also often extend downstream to channels and customers and laterally to manufacturers of complementary products and to companies in industries related by skills, technologies, or common inputs. Finally, many clusters include governmental and other institutions—such as universities, standards-setting agencies, think tanks, vocational training providers, and trade associations—that provide specialized training, education, information, research, and technical support.”

Throughout the world, clusters are known by various terms, such as Centres of Excellence, Competence Networks, Innovation Hubs, Industrial Poles, Localised Industry, Smart Specialisations, etc.

Why clusters?

“Clusters affect competition in three broad ways: first, by increasing the productivity of companies based in the area; second, by driving the direction and pace of innovation, which underpins future productivity growth; and third, by stimulating the formation of new businesses, which expands and strengthens the cluster itself. A cluster allows each member to benefit as if it had greater scale or as if it had joined with others formally—without requiring it to sacrifice its flexibility.”


  1. Enhanced access to advanced services, specialized knowledge;
  2. Enhanced visibility and potential for global brand recognition;
  3. Enhanced business networking, including improved access to firms with complementary knowledge;
  4. Enhanced influence;
  5. Being an insider through better access to knowledge;
  6. Evolving business strategy; businesses become more focused as their place in the ecosystem is well defined.

Who performed the analysis?

Dr. Gregory Spencer, an independent economic development consultant with specific expertise in clusters and innovation ecosystems was contracted by the WTC Winnipeg to complete the analysis.

He has 20 years of experience working with public sector clients on economic development and cluster strategies. In addition to his consulting work Dr. Spencer has published research in top peer-reviewed academic journals such as the Journal of Economic Geography and Regional Studies. He has also published op-eds on topics of economic development in top mainstream media outlets such as The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and The Guardian (Online).

Dr. Spencer has a Bachelor’s Degree (Honours) in Geography from Bishop’s University, a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning (M.Sc.Pl.) from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in Economic Geography from the University of Toronto. He is highly proficient in Geographic Information Systems (ArcGIS), Social Network Analysis (Gephi), and advanced quantitative analysis of metropolitan economies.

What are Trade Action Plans?

The Trade Action Plans will feature:

  • A definition of the cluster;
  • Identification of the key trade strengths and promising trade markets: recap of the recommendations from the report “Towards a Trade Strategy for Manitoba” and input from additional stakeholder consultations;
  • Identification of stakeholders;
  • Description of the key trade considerations: obstacles that must be addressed in order to maximise the potential success of the cluster;
  • Activities for trade: identification of the activities to be undertaken by the WTC Winnipeg, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders;
  • Timelines of anticipated activities;
  • Anticipated outcomes: definitions and targets to demonstrate measurable impact of coordinated efforts to advance the cluster through trade.

Of note, while the report “Towards a Trade Strategy for Manitoba” focuses on the five key themes that underpin the growth and development of each of the identified clusters, the WTC Winnipeg will focus on creating programs and strategies for the “Trade” theme. We will work with partners who seek to work within the other.

How will the Trade Action Plans be created?

The WTC Winnipeg will develop the Trade Action Plans in collaboration with governments, public agencies, and most importantly, Manitoba businesses.

Stakeholders will be invited to provide input and feedback so that the final product identifies the specific and concrete activities that will be undertaken by the WTC Winnipeg, in support of businesses, to enhance the cluster’s competitiveness.

What type of activities should we expect to see in these Trade Action Plans?

The planned activities will largely reflect current best practice in trade development. It will be comprised of events such as seminars, trade missions, specialized workshops, and matchmaking opportunities. The objective is to establish a set of actions which will increase trade activity in each cluster. It explains why it remains very important for the plans to be vetted by key stakeholders (for coherence) and the private sector (for relevance). A coordinated approach to develop meaningful programming, as defined by the companies themselves, is the ultimate objective.

How can I get involved (I’m a company)?

Give us your input! We want the initiatives undertaken this project to work for you. Please sign up to receive emails, participate in roundtable consultations and provide us with your input.

How can I get involved (I’m a sector council/public agency)?

Your support of this project goes a long way to help ensure a coordinated approach to increasing competitiveness in the province. We invite you to:

  • Sign up to participate in roundtable discussions;
  • Provide input on Trade Action Plans (in group discussions or one-on-one);
  • Assist us in identifying and approaching companies relevant to specific clusters;
  • Support initiatives proposed by those who seek to formalise clusters.

What is the timeframe of the project?

Fall 2019 Start of project
Phase 1 & 2: Cluster mapping and engagement
Fall 2019 Via RFP process, the WTC Winnipeg retains services of Dr. Spencer to perform quantitative and qualitative analysis of Manitoba’s economy.
December 2019 – February 2020 Dr. Spencer performs consultations (primarily in-person) with > 60 stakeholders.
March 2020 Global pandemic strikes Canada.
Avril 2020 Dr. Spencer provides 1st draft,
the WTC Winnipeg begins drafting Trade Action Plans.
Été 2020 Dr. Spencer completes report.
Phase 2: Develop action plans for trade development
October 2020 Publication of final report: “Towards a Trade Strategy for Manitoba” (available above).
October – December 2020 Stakeholder consultations to collect input for Trade Action Plans.
January 2021 Completion of Trade Action Plans.
Phase 3: Activation of Trade Action Plans
January 2021 – march 2023 Activation of Trade Action Plans (may include trade missions, seminars, etc.).

How has COVID-19 impacted this project?

As stated in the report: “COVID-19 will not fundamentally change what the province’s top capabilities are.” As such, despite a few slight adjustments, the findings of the report remain well-founded. For more detail, please refer to the COVID-19 Prologue (p. 5) of the report “Towards a Trade Strategy for Manitoba”.

From a practical standpoint, digital platforms will be leveraged to ensure the activities (meetings with foreign stakeholders, roundtable consultations, education, etc.) can be undertaken effectively and safely.

Who is funding this project?

The project is funded by Western Economic Diversification though its Regional Innovation Ecosystems program. Financial and in-kind support are also provided by the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg.

Who can I talk to about this project?

The lead on this initiative is Derek Earl, Vice-President, WTC Winnipeg.

Feel free to connect with him directly should you have any questions: