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Rural Development Institute seeks input from businesses

Brandon University’s Rural Development Institute hopes to gather input from food processors in rural Manitoba to make more innovation possible

As a rural-based business, what challenges do you face in accessing resources?

That’s the question Brandon’s Rural Development Institute (RDI) is seeking an answer for.

“We are essentially looking at the problems that companies in rural Manitoba see, the barriers that they have faced and suggestions in ways they can overcome those,” said Gillian Richards, research associate with the RDI, at Brandon University. “We will also be working to identify the resources that are currently available.”

Last September, the RDI set out on a two-year applied research project to identify and address barriers that affect food processors in rural Manitoba, in hopes of pinpointing tools that could strengthen rural entrepreneurship.

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RDI’s project has been funded through the federal and provincial Growing Forward 2 initiative and looks to create new knowledge that will make innovation easier for rural residents.

“We are trying to find out what these barriers might be so that we have a better idea of how we might be able to improve them,” Richards said.

For this study, the RDI has focused on southwestern Manitoba, as residents in this region are often confronted with greater challenges in terms of accessing funding and resources, compared to those located closer to large city centres.

Online participation

Over the course of the project, researchers will be reviewing existing literature, contacting innovation centres and organizers that support innovators and conducting in-depth interviews with key industry players.

As part of the information-gathering process, RDI has also set up an online survey and is looking for all businesses in southwestern Manitoba to provide insight into the challenges they have faced in growing and expanding.

“We are interested in hearing from anyone who is vaguely involved in food processing in southwestern Manitoba,” Richards said. “We will talk with the big players, all the way down the chain, including those who may be selling at farmers’ markets. They might not think they are food processing, but on a small scale, that is food processing.”

The RDI is not only looking for input from food processors, but all businesses and producers from rural areas across southwestern Manitoba in order to better understand the obstacles these businesses face when looking to access support services.

“Any producers who are interested in this, even if they are not involved in food processing, we want to hear from them in terms of what kind of support they have and what they feel the local business culture is like,” Richards said.

Researchers are also seeking feedback from anyone who delivers or provides support services to those involved in food processing.

“That would be GO centres, economic development officers, banks, accountants, and municipal councils. I would imagine in this step we will find connections that could be made between processor and service provider.”

The online survey is anonymous, consists of three parts and should take 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

A URL has been created to allow surveys to be completed on any smartphone or mobile device.

The RDI will be collecting the online surveys until the end of July.

Community consultations

Along with the online survey, RDI has targeted 12 communities in the southwestern corner of the province in order to speak with community members in person.

“In southwest Manitoba we have chosen 12 communities, that are varied in size and geography, to hold public consultations,” Richards said.

Richards explains that the Southwest Regional Development Corp. (SRDC), a project partner, has broken southwest Manitoba into four quarters.

“We have selected three communities in each of those quarters and deliberately went with different-size communities that offer different levels of service to get a well-rounded idea of the services that are currently out there.”

The study will conclude in September and the RDI will generate a variety of research products that will include a comprehensive package of strategies, tools and support programs.

The overarching goal of the project is to assist in enhancing exporting and manufacturing opportunities in the province and facilitate entrepreneurship efforts in rural areas.

To take part in the survey visit, fluidsurveys.com/s/rim-swsurvey/.

For more information call 204-571-8551 or email [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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