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John Lee Economic Development Regina
John Lee
President & CEO - Economic Development Regina

Attracting Investment to Regina & Saskatchewan

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Takeaways

  1. Regina and Saskatchewan have built strong reputations for their secure food supply as well as access to infrastructure and key talent.
  2. Secondary cities like Regina are becoming increasingly popular due to its high quality of life and economic opportunities.
  3. The development of transportation infrastructure and connectedness in Regina is key to furthering economic growth there.

Action

Regina and Saskatchewan have all the ingredients to become a destination that is attractive to foreign investment: access to resources, good quality of life, as well as the development of the manufacturing, technology, and transportation industries. Like the rest of Canada, Regina has to work harder to make sure its story is told elsewhere, so that investors can become aware of the attractive investment opportunities in the area.


What are Canada and Regina’s FDI competitive advantages? What are some of its weaknesses?

Particularly now, Canada has a reputation of safe and secure food as well as access to crops and products like nowhere else in the world.

Our biggest weakness, which is actually an opportunity, is our brand and our typical way of being Canadians where we do not tell our story and make people aware of all the great things we have. While it is a weakness in one sense, it is actually an incredible opportunity, particularly with where we are today with COVID-19, because people are looking for safe, reliable, and high quality food products.


Is Regina fundamentally different from Canada in terms of attracting foreign investment?

First and foremost, Saskatchewan, and in particular Regina, is centrally located to 47% of the arable land in the country. Therefore, we have crops from a very diverse portion of the country. Saskatchewan has also built a world-leading pulse sector and that makes us one of the largest exporters in a number of product types, whether it is peas, lentils, canola, flax, or oats. Those two things in particular make us uniquely positioned not only in Canada but the world.

“We believe we have a number of very significant attributes that make Saskatchewan, and in our case, Regina, a very attractive place for investment.”

Regina, in particular, also offers a fairly unique quality of life. We have one of the highest net disposable incomes in the country. We have lots of opportunities in terms of where you may choose to live, whether it is on an acreage, on water, in an urban setting, or downtown, and overall, we have a very unique quality of life that we can offer to people and workers. We believe we have a number of very significant attributes that make Saskatchewan, and in our case, Regina, a very attractive place for investment.


Are secondary cities becoming more attractive in the wake of COVID-19?

Yes, we are hearing more and more that people who live in larger multimillion population centres are looking at smaller centres such as Regina or locations around Regina that are smaller and more rural but are close to jobs and quality of life experiences. Cities like Regina are very well positioned going forward.

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What are Regina’s biggest challenges and how should they be addressed?

Like Canada, one of our biggest challenges in Regina and Saskatchewan is our ability to tell our story and for people to recognize and realize all of the great things that Regina and Southern Saskatchewan has to offer. That remains perhaps our biggest challenge but also our greatest opportunity.


What is your top priority for promoting more foreign investment in the region?

One of our primary initiatives is to position Regina as a global food hub, and the rationale as to why we think that makes sense is for a number of reasons. One is that our producers and processors have access to crops—we have an emerging financial market that is very interested in investing and supporting growth companies. We have an emerging transportation and logistics hub with the ability to move products very easily throughout Canada, either by rail or truck, through containers, move product for export to port. We are obviously a land-based city or community and as a result, just having those two to three things positions us well for the future.


Which regional sectors are notable for foreign investors?

As you mentioned, it is obviously agri-food. We have a very strong multibillion-dollar manufacturing sector. We are also one of the largest host of major tradeshows, not only in the food and agriculture sector but in other sectors. We have declared events and tradeshows to be a core sector for our city because we are very good at hosting major events and tradeshows. We have an emerging technology sector that is starting to grow, and while a lot of that is in the agriculture and food space, it has also diversified into a number of subsectors within the region.

“We have declared events and tradeshows to be a core sector for our city.”

A lot of that is due to a number of reasons. The support system is really on fire. We have two major support systems here in Regina that have emerged. On is the Conexus Cultivator, which is owned and run by Conexus, a co-op bank here in Regina, which provides support to startups, and technology companies—and they have been absolutely critical to our entrepreneurship system here in the province. We also have Saskatchewan’s largest co-working space, owned and operated by a company called Path Cowork, which is run by a number of local entrepreneurs here in the Regina region.


Which of Regina or Saskatchewan’s main industries are posed for the most growth in the future?

Particularly in Saskatchewan, the agriculture and food space is poised for the most growth but we also believe the manufacturing and tech space is equally poised for growth. They are all, in reality, interconnected anyway, because there are lots of tech companies. We have, for example, a company called DOT Technology  that is looking at some major expansion. They are a technology company in the farm and food space, so while we talk about food and agriculture there is a direct correlation to our manufacturing and technology side. We also see some opportunities emerging in the financial side as there are more venture capital funds, other types of financial models, or companies that are looking to be here in Regina and expand the financial offering that they have in both the food and agriculture space as well the technology space.


Why have companies decided to invest in Regina over other cities in Canada?

There are a number of reasons why companies are choosing Regina. Regina is now home to Protein Industries Canada which is one of the five superclusters that the federal government is investing in. We are very fortunate to have the head office here in Regina. PIC is an organization that invests in innovation and research to support companies to advance new technologies and ways of growing in the agriculture space, particularly the protein space. We have companies like AGT Food and Ingredients, which is the world leader in processing protein, and is seen as an anchor company in the whole protein agriculture space, so we are able to grow around companies like that. We have a range of other companies like Viterra as well as a new emerging company called CanMar Foods, which is a producer of food grade flax, and they call Regina home—they are just outside of Regina.

Saskatchewan has been a dominating force, particularly in the crop side of agriculture and we are seeing a number of companies growing locally while we are also attracting new companies into the region.

“Saskatchewan has been a dominating force, particularly in the crop side of agriculture.”

Also, what is very attractive is we have two primary transportation logistics hubs, one is the Global Transportation Hub with rail and truck access, and then a new, emerging transportation logistic hub called Chuka Creek. Both have access to rail lines and trucking routes so we are able to offer to investors a number of things in the tool kit that make it all the more attractive for an investor to consider Regina and the region as a place for investment.


How have Regina and Saskatchwan’s economices fared during COVID-19?

In a lot of communities, there have been some positive impacts. Like most communities, the biggest sector that has been hit by COVID-19 has been the hospitality sector, such as the hotels, restaurants, and those industries that rely not only on local residents being in the restaurants but the visitor economy itself. Events are canceled, business travel is down or next to nothing, and tourist travel is down. That sector in itself has been significantly hurt and that really hurt our city like it has every other city in the country.


What is the value of FDI for communities and the Canadian economy as a whole?

Foreign investment is absolutely critical to growing our community but also our country. What foreign investment does is it brings new money into our community and ultimately helps to create jobs and grow local companies. Those companies that come and locate here are often selling goods and services to other countries throughout the world, so it also significantly opens up the export markets throughout the world, with the products and services coming from local farms, companies, or service providers. The investment attraction for investment is absolutely critical to Canada’s growth, and in our case, Saskatchewan’s growth going forward. Investment attraction also creates opportunities for local companies to partner up with foreign companies and provide more capital and support. That allows local companies to expand and grow as well, and broaden their product offers.  

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John Lee Economic Development Regina
John Lee
President & CEO - Economic Development Regina

Bio: John Lee is the president and CEO of Economic Development Regina (EDR). He has over 25 years of experience working in diverse industries, including a position as President and CEO of Communities of Tomorrow, an initiative to advance municipal infrastructure innovation in Saskatchewan. He has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to the world of sport in Canada.

 

Organization Profile: Economic Development Regina is an agency that works on economic development and destination marketing for the Greater Regina Area. Their mission is to identify, develop, and promote opportunities for economic growth in the region. They advocate for and support retention, development, attraction of industry, and tourism strategies to promote Regina as a destination for investment.