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The Business World Comes to Winnipeg: Centrallia 2016

Candid keynote takes you out-of-the-box.

Dr Gerald Durley Centrallia Winnipeg

Over 700 entrepreneurs and businesses from over 30 countries in Winnipeg came together to connect, learn and form strategic business alliances at Centrallia, a conference taking place at Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre.

This conference, which is in its fourth year in Winnipeg, includes two breakout sessions, a keynote address and networking event on Wednesday, May 25th, followed by a day and a half of networking via a “speed dating system” that aims to match as many complementary businesses with one another as possible.

How Does Centrallia Work?

If you haven’t been able to make it to Centrallia this year, here’s a brief overview of the process companies go through when they apply.

When you register you have the option to choose up to 20 companies to meet with, including international, national and local businesses. You have the opportunity to change your choices as many times as you want until two days before the conference.

Centrallia expo and meeting areaThen, the Centrallia selection committee sets you up with a schedule of meetings and presents you with the times, tables and people you’re meeting. The biggest benefit here is that you can see if the meeting was requested by you, the other company, or if the meeting was mutually requested.

In the case of unmatched choices, you are presented with a series of handouts which show the unmatched meetings that you requested (or requested with you), along with open meeting times that the selection committee selected. Being able to see their schedules is extremely beneficial — just check when someone has an open 30 minutes, and if you’re also available you can feel free to approach them to request an impromptu meeting.

Meetings are held in a “speed dating” style where different businesses meet at assigned numbered tables for 30 minutes to discuss their business opportunities.

World Trade Centre Winnipeg Centrallia

Didn’t get to meet with all the people you wanted to connect with? No worries. In the event that you aren’t able to meet with everyone, Centrallia’s handouts also have contact info for business reps so you can follow up with them at your leisure and connect outside of the conference.

“Centrallia is an incredibly important networking opportunity for businesses like mine, who act as resources for other organizations and businesses” says Ron Rueckert, President and CEO of Veracity Machining.

“I attended Centrallia 2014 and one of the meetings that I had resulted [in] our second largest client. That wouldn’t have happened without the opportunity to connect during the conference.”

Breakout Sessions

The first day of the conference is dedicated to two breakout sessions, both of which explore business opportunities in two very different areas: the Americas and the Arctic.

Breakout sessions at Centrallia Winnipeg

The Americas

This breakout session was presented in partnership with the Canada West Foundation and discussed opportunities, challenges and specific factors that businesses looking to expand into the Americas should take into consideration before expanding into this new, growing market.

Orlando Perez Centrallia

Among the topics discussed throughout the day was the NAFTA agreement, which included a panel discussion with Matt Rooney of the George W. Bush Center. His advice encouraged Canada and the US to make it easier for individuals and businesses to move between North America and Mexico.

The second portion of the afternoon opened with comments on the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) from Sergio Frota of The World Trade Center Sao Paulo and Gustavo Zentner of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Mercosur includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia. The majority of these discussions focused on economic challenges faced by the region combined with advice to help businesses decide how to expand into these new territories.

The Arctic

The second breakout session of the day focused on topics relating to expansion into and opportunities within the Northern provinces and Territories.

One of the presentations presented by the Makivik Corporation discussed The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). The discussion included how resource management regimes are determined, and how the changing roles of business and public sectors, including changes in Aboriginal rights and claims.

The Arctic breakout session CentralliaArguably one of the most interesting sessions discussed a partnership between KAST Engineering, a Korean company, and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. The groups discussed how to build vertical indoor food gardens that could provide fresh fruits and vegetables for residents of northern communities in Manitoba.

Glenn Ross of the Opaskwayak Health Authority described vegetables shipped to these communities as “rubbery” and discussed how access to fresh food in these areas can have a variety of positive long-term business benefits, including making purchasing food and supporting communities easier and more cost-effective.

The Keynote

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speech at CentralliaThe highlight of the day was the keynote event, which included introductory speeches by the recently elected Premier Brian Pallister, Mayor Brian Bowman, and WTC Winnipeg President and CEO Mariette Mulaire, followed by a featured talk with Dr. Gerald Durley.

Dr. Durley, a civil rights activist who was present for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, spoke to the crowd candidly about his struggles growing up in a segregated America.

The inspirational speaker brought forward the lessons and values of inclusiveness and self-worth that he learned as a young person fighting for civil rights can be applied to all walks of life, including business.

Dr Gerald Durley keynote speech Centrallia “Too often we allow other people to define us, to put us into boxes” he said to a packed house. “But what’s worse is when we do it to ourselves. When we put ourselves in an ‘I can’t make it’ box.”

He also spoke of the importance of coming together to make connections in person, and to form business relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

“The greatest way to build a company isn’t to impress others; it’s to let others impress you,” he stated, wrapping up his speech to a standing ovation from the crowd.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman at Centrallia

Have you attended Centrallia yet this year? Tell us your highlights of this year’s event, or when you attended previously, in the comments section below. Then, check out this roundup of upcoming Manitoba business events.

MTS is a champion sponsor of Centrallia, which runs from May 25 – 27, 2016. 

MTS booth Centrallia

Alyson Shane

Alyson Shane is a writer and business owner from Winnipeg, Manitoba who has been publishing content online for 16+ years. She runs Starling Social, an agency which develops digital marketing strategies that combine social media, paid advertising and content strategy to keep businesses growing and engaged with their customers. Outside the office, Alyson is a passionate urbanist who loves gardening, riding her bike and thinking about the public spaces that bring us together. She can be reached on social media at @alysonshane.

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