Executive Director, Vern May
Vern May was appointed to the role of Executive Director for Portage Regional Economic Development in February 2017 and comes to the role with an extensive background in community and business development in both the public and private sector.
Since 2013, Vern has been engaged in rural economic development in Manitoba, holding previous positions in the communities of Souris and Minnedosa respectively before arriving in Portage la Prairie. He identifies that while the fundamentals of development are the same, each community has its own unique hurdles to overcome to get to a point of investment readiness to attract business.
In Souris, his arrival in 2013 saw a community that was still trying to overcome the impact of widespread media surrounding a record-breaking flood two years earlier. That flood, which drew national headlines, required the demolition of the community’s Star Attraction, the Souris Swinging Bridge and wreaked havoc upon the community. May’s role during his stay there was to re-introduce the region to Souris and illustrate that the town had fully recovered. His efforts included hosting the community’s first large scale concerts. His investigation into new opportunities for development included feasibility studies and engagement with developers which has since led to the construction of a $9M combined hotel/seniors residence on a property at the heart of the business district which had been vacant for 26 years. His efforts to collaborate with community stakeholders earned the community the 2015 Partnership Award as issued by Tourism Westman.
In Minnedosa, Vern was tasked with trying to encourage growth of the business community in a jurisdiction which self-identified that it had no land or vacant store fronts available to be occupied. His term in Minnedosa focused on nurturing grassroots entrepreneurship which resulted in the opening of new shops and services by re-purposing existing commercial spaces. In addition, his efforts to create visibility for the community nestled in the valley without strong visibility from the adjacent highways increased the marketing and publicity profile through the mainstream media as well as online avenues. His efforts in this role earned him the Tourism Westman Marketing Excellence award in 2016.
In addition to his work in Economic Development, Vern holds a certificate in University Management and is a graduate of the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He has relocated to Portage la Prairie with his wife Karen and their sons Oscar (5) and Ty (1).