Right in the centre - Succession planning important


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

In commercial business and in the Ag community, there’s been a lot of talk about succession planning for many years. In its simplest terms, what will happen to a farm or a business when one of the key people dies, becomes disabled or moves on to some other career. In farming and other business enterprises, it can be a fairly simple process. Unless there’s is a succession plan, the assets get thrown up for sale or auction and are scattered among the remaining players in the industry. This scene has played out hundreds of thousands of times across our land. Its especially apparent in rural western Canada. Farms are much bigger than they used to be, businesses are much bigger too and as a direct result, many communities, have disappeared.

Succession planning is important for businesses but it’s also important for communities. Evidently, many communities have not done a good job of succession planning as is evidenced by the complete disappearance of hundreds of communities and the disabling of many more.

In southern Manitoba, few communities have done their succession planning very well. One can point to Steinbach, Winkler, Morden, maybe Stonewall and then the list gets pretty thin. It could be argued that Neepawa has done a good job of succession planning but that’s questionable. Neepawa held it’s own for population for 50 years or so and then saw a boost in population. The holding period was, in its simplest terms, picking up population based on the decline of surrounding villages and RMs. The increase period was a direct effect of immigration to bring workers to Hylife so they could get their staffing up to 1,050 people from the 350 people that were there when Hylife bought out Springhill Farms.

In many towns, there have been investors and visionaries who have seen the future and embraced it and have tried to bring their communities, kicking a complaining into the 21st century. Sad to say, most have been met with negativity. In Neepawa’s case, if it had to not been for Mike Wollman, of Springhill Hutterite Colony and Mayor Homer Gill in the 1980s, we would not have a hog plant at Neepawa. 

Now Hylife is a “big” example but there are many smaller victories that communities might achieve. Why, for example, does this area tolerate the BPSD basically ignoring the use of two good schools, namely Brookdale and Eden, as they cram more and more students into HMK and NACI into “huts”? On one hand, we, as a community, are letting two good school buildings rot away and at the same time are spending large amounts of money on temporary, less than ideal classrooms. It’s crazy really and all because the leadership of the BPSD are afraid to lay out a plan that would utilize schools that would be actually better facilities than HMK or NACI.

Communities need to decide what they want to be, not just sit back and accept what governments, corporations and local politicians and bureaucrats give them. Neepawa needs a new firehall. It’s just a large machine shed for heaven’s sake. Many farms have bigger sheds on their yards. Rosedele/Eden needed a firehall and a new fire truck so they went out and got one. Imagine that, a real decision?  Arden needed water and sewage so they went out and got it. Bet nobody in Arden wants to take it out now.

Neepawa got a raw water line and a new water treatment plant. Bet they were darned glad they had it the night Home Hardware burned down as water treatment plant staff were able to keep a tower full of water all night to fight the fire AND still have capacity to allow Hylife to open up the next morning.

Towns need vision, it goes without saying, but towns also need action. Neepawa needed doctors and a clinic. They got both through cooperation headed up largely by the Neepawa Area Development Corporation (NADCO).

Towns can sit on their butts and wait for corporations or governments to magically come along and wave the investment wand but it doesn’t usually work. Communities have to go out a get what they need, what they want and what they can afford. Some towns and municipalities are sitting on their financial reserves and on very low interest borrowing capacity and still little is happening. Now is not the time for sitting, now is the time for action.