Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Postcards from Canada's (only) MidWest

Greetings from Thunder Bay. Arrived here for my fourth and last gig MCing the regional Ontario Global Traders Awards. Thunder Bay is a very cool city, so far from the rest of Ontario that it feels like the Prairies (where the True West begins). A lot of federal programs, for instance, file T Bay under their "Prairies" offices. (And indeed, one bureaucrat from Winnipeg will be presenting an Ontario export award today.) You can buy Winnipeg papers from the street boxes.

Thunder Bay is an interesting blend of East & West. It's a smaller city, but there's a lively, "let's get it done" edge to life here that reminds me of Alberta. And although the ocean is 1,000 miles away, this is an Atlantic seaport. It's very cool.

(Maybe too cool. The snow was swirling around yesterday.)

I just attended the opening this morning of a “Grow Your Business” conference for entrepreneurs in northwest Ontario. Some random observations:

* T Bay mayor Lynn Peterson (who is doing excellent work in making the city more effective and accountable) had an interesting remark. Referring to the Lakehead’s storied heritage with the fur trade and early exploration, she said, “We were part of the global economy before anyone knew there was one.”

* There are not enough entrepreneurs here. The need for information, especially in exporting, is huge, and institutions are doing their best to get the info out there. Somehow, we have to convince more business people to stop fighting fires and take more time to learn and discover.

* Another thought: there are International Business students here from Confederation College. Why not bring more students to conferences such as these, and train them to call on businesses to report these findings? There is lots of valuable information to share, but it’s the “last mile” – getting it into the ears of the risk-takers and decision-makers – that is always the most problematic.

* Plus, there should be a law requiring every business person in Canada to take a course in public speaking. And to pass it.

Now back to work.

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