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CENTREPORT CANADA RAIL PARK: a catalyst for economic growth

The CentrePort Canada Rail Park will be a game-changer in the transportation and logistics sector for Manitoba and Canada.

With its strategic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and efficient connectivity, the Rail Park is poised to enhance Canada’s competitiveness in the global market and generate significant economic benefits for the province and the country.

Focus Equities Inc. was named in March, 2022, developer of CentrePort Canada Rail Park, a 665-acre rail hub located in the heart of North America’s largest trimodal inland port and Foreign Trade Zone.

The Rail Park, in the RM of Rosser in the Winnipeg metro region, will facilitate the movement of goods between road, rail and air to provide a range of value-added services such as warehousing, distribution and customs clearance, and with potential to attract interest from diverse sectors including manufacturing, logistics and mining.  

“Winnipeg offers companies engaged in global supply chain activities a service that they cannot get anywhere else in Canada, and perhaps North America – location, affordability, a keen workforce, a tremendous amount of existing government infrastructure, and the full support of the Province of Manitoba,” says Ken Mariash, owner of B.C.-based Focus Equities.  

“The Rail Park is attracting businesses from around the world to be located in our sustainable and innovative transportation hub.”  

Manitoba has a diverse economy and a keen, affordable workforce, Mariash adds. The Rail Park is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs.  

When the entire Rail Park is complete in 10 to 15 years, the economic spin-off could be as high as $1 billion, he notes. Phase 1 will consist of nine or 10 lots ranging from 10 to 50 acres. The company is set to announce its first tenants soon.  

Uniquely positioned to leverage Manitoba’s geographical advantage at the centre of Canada, the Rail Park is situated between major North American trade corridors with the Trans-Canada Highway and Winnipeg Richardson International Airport each just minutes away. It also has access to three Class 1 railways, with CN and BNSF available through federal interswitching, and direct access to the soon-to-be renamed Canadian Pacific (CP).  

With CP and Kansas City Southern newly merged to create Canadian Pacific Kansas City or CPKC, it will become the first single-line railway in North America to link Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. It is expected to create synergies that will further enhance North America’s transportation network and enable businesses to reach new markets.  

Coupled with the Rail Park’s strategic location and efficient connectivity, businesses will be able to transport goods more efficiently and cost-effectively.  

“Ken Mariash’s vision for the rail park is to create a world-class rail hub that will further transform the transportation and logistics landscape of Canada,” says Aimee Goyer, CentrePort Managing Director and Executive Director, Marketing and Communications.  

“The federal government’s recently announced $18 million toward the construction of the CentrePort Canada Rail Park is a significant financial endorsement,” Goyer says.  

“It signifies just how substantial the project is in terms of its ability to connect and grow industry in Manitoba and Canada.”  

Businesses will have the freedom to ship goods with the rail company of their choice to deep-water ports on the east and west coasts of Canada, making it an ideal gateway for international trade. The efficient transportation of goods reduces costs and increases competitiveness, enabling businesses to reach new markets and customers.  

Mariash has a proven track record of developing successful projects in the real estate and logistics sectors.  

He has been involved in several major projects in Canada and the U.S., including build-to-suit experience with Fortune 500 companies such as IKEA, Walmart, Loblaws, and industrial companies such as Worley Parsons, Kuehne + Nagel, and Canadian Freightways.  

Mariash’s commitment to sustainability and innovation is evident in the CentrePort Canada Rail Park’s design, which incorporates energy-efficient technologies, green spaces and multimodal transportation options. Focus Equities’ goal is to create a hub to attract businesses from around the world, driving economic growth, job creation and innovation in Manitoba and beyond.  

For more information on CentrePort Canada Rail Park, contact Chris Reiter, Sr. Development Manager, at creiter@ 


This location is a critical hub’: Canadian government investing in Rail Park near Winnipeg

The federal government is investing in a new Rail Park near Winnipeg to help improve the transportation of goods, a project pegged to benefit Manitoba’s economy. 

Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced Wednesday the federal government will be investing $18 million in the project, which will be taken on by CentrePort Canada. 

The Rail Park will be located just outside Winnipeg and will include a second mainline switch, several kilometres of track, a lift station and connections to access roads. 

Alghabra said this project will help repair the supply chain, which has been affected by the pandemic and other global events over the past few years. 

“The city and this location is a critical hub in a strong supply chain and that’s something that Canadian exporters rely on,” said Alghabra. 

“We know that a strong supply chain contributes to growing an economy that works for all Canadians, while making life more affordable for its citizens.” 

The money for this project comes from the National Trade Corridors Fund and the federal government is providing half of the $36 million price tag. 

“Not only will this project create well-paying jobs in the region, but it will make it easier to move goods between the different modes of transportation. For instance, from rail to truck or from air to rail,” the minister said. “It’s really about making a supply chain more fluid, more adaptable and more easily able to get goods from point A to point B.” 

Alghabra said this project will benefit Manitoba’s economy. He noted the quality of infrastructure and efficiency of trade corridors are crucial to the economic success of Manitoba. 

On top of the economic benefits, Alghabra said the project is expected to reduce congestion on highways and in turn reduce pollution. 

Chris Lorenc, the director of CentrePort Canada’s Board of Directors, said this Rail Park will help grow the company’s trade profile. 

“This investment in the CentrePort Canada Rail Park development enhances intermodal connectivity in the Winnipeg capital region and helps to fully realize the vision for the largest trimodal inland port in the heart of North America,” Lorenc said in a news release. 

The trade corridor that this Rail Park will support runs from Churchill down through the United States and into Mexico.  


Manitoba’s CentrePort to break ground on rail park this summer

One Canadian real estate developer is optimistic the City of Winnipeg can regain a place among the country’s top major cities. 

The co-owner of Focus Equities Kenneth Mariash says building CentrePort Canada Rail Park could be a step in that direction. 

The Rail Park is going ahead at North America’s largest trimodal inland port, the Province of Manitoba announced Friday. 

The project that’s estimated to generate $3 billion in economic activity for the province will complete the inland port’s vision of enhancing accessibility via three modes of transportation: air, rail and truck — CentrePort’s president and CEO Diane Gray said. 

“Obviously, that’s exciting. Economic growth means job creation. It means opportunity,” Gray told Global News on Tuesday. 

The Rail Park is expected to create about 5,000 jobs over the course of the build-out, which could take between 10 to 20 years, she said. 

CentrePort makes up 20,000 acres that fall within the City of Winnipeg and the RM of Rosser, land designated to capitalize on its central geographic location and serve as a logistics, manufacturing and warehousing hub. 

CentrePort Canada Rail Park will be nestled northwest of CentrePort Canada Way and south of Canadian Pacific Railway’s main east-west line. Focus Equities is taking on the 665-acre project, which Gray says will help companies move goods more efficiently. 

 The industrial land is already home to more than 1,000 companies, she said, with CentrePort having attracted more than 100 since its founding in 2008, through The CentrePort Canada Act. 

Transport trucks hurtled up and down CentrePort Canada Way on Tuesday — a route with upwards of 10,000 trips a day. Brand-new multi-tenant buildings dotted some of the surrounding landscape, along with patches of freshly overturned earth, signs of bustling construction. 

“Companies that manage part of their supply chain by rail will have the option of having direct spurlines into their property and on their sites,” Gray said. 

They’ll be able to connect to three Class 1 railways: directly to CP and indirectly to Canadian National Railway (CN) and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) through federal interswitching, she added. 

While trucking continues to dominate Canadian logistics, Gray said a number of pressures on the industry may push companies to look at rail, including cutting down on their environmental footprint and rising fuel costs. 

The project is a move supply chain expert Barry Prentice says will make CentrePort more attractive. 

“It’s a bit like, ‘Well, if you don’t have it, why would people come here? And if you do have it, it’s maybe one more reason for (companies) to come here,” Prentice, a professor at the University of Manitoba, told Global News on Friday. “Certainly, it’s much more positive than negative.” 

“Having the three railways meet here in Winnipeg and having access to all three from the Rail Park will make us a more desirable location.” 

The Rail Park is also timely, with CP’s acquisition of Kansas City Southern (KCS) in December that connects Winnipeg all the way to Mexico by a single line, he said. 

“That’s actually an advantage to us in terms of moving things through. Products arrive faster. They’re not likely to get lost … and of course, rates might be more competitive as well.” 

Prentice says he ultimately can’t predict whether the project will be profitable, but it’s a step the president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg is trusting will usher in the economic activity CentrePort is hoping for. 

“It’s one of the last big pieces that needs to be in place to be able to realize the benefits of CentrePort and what we’ve sold CentrePort to be,” Dayna Spiring said. 

“I’m really excited about this. I think this is a really big deal, and it’s going to be a game changer in the economic development space.” 

Rail Park could put Manitoba ‘on the map’: developer 

Focus Equities intends to start construction this summer with the goal of having the first fully-serviced commercial lots available for tenants by next summer. 

Up to 20 different tenants could settle at the Rail Park once it’s completed, Mariash told Global News on Tuesday, and they’re in talks with several interested parties. 

Mariash anticipates the project will put Manitoba on the map, as rail becomes more topical amid increasingly congested American ports and the shortage of truck drivers. 

If the CP-KCS merger is approved by a U.S. regulator, the single-line rail network linking three countries could help bypass the congestion in Houston and Los Angeles and make Winnipeg a hot commodity, Mariash said. 

“Canadian Pacific is talking about (a) 60 per cent increase in freight volume, which is huge,” Mariash said. “The impact on Winnipeg being the terminus from the southern countries to the north, it’s going to be very, very much in demand.” 

“I think, just wait and see. You won’t recognize the place in 20 years. It’s going to get what it deserves, which is great.” 


ON THE RAILS – Ken Mariash And Focus Equities Are Bringing The CentrePort Canada Rail Park to Life

The man behind arguably the biggest business expansion in  Winnipeg’s history says the Manitoba capital is poised to become Canada’s next boom town. 

Ken Mariash, founder of Focus Equities Inc., which is preparing to break ground later this year on the CentrePort Canada Rail Park, a 665-acre development combining industrial space with logistics infrastructure-says other competing markets have simply become too expensive.  

It’s our time  

“Now it’s Winnipeg’s turn. The Canadian economy is maturing, and cities end up being more competitive with what they’re best at,” he says.  

“This is a $3-billion opportunity, which would be one of the biggest business expansions Winnipeg has seen since the 1920s, when the town was expanding rapidly.”  

Winnipeg was Western Canada’s first industrial city a century ago and the slow and steady performance of its diverse economy in recent years is very attractive, he says. 

Mariash and Focus Equities have more than 50 years of unique, build-to-suit experience with Fortune 500 companies including IKEA, Walmart, Loblaws, and industrial companies including Worley Parsons, Kuehne + Nagel, and Canadian Freightways.  

Their projects include:  

Edmonton’s Aurum Energy Park, a 750-acre development that connects Alberta’s energy sector to the high load corridor, the Anthony Henday Ring Road, and rail for bulk transport needs.  

Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary, which is to date North America’s most dynamic shopping location. The billion-dollar, 400-acre project is a 3.5-million square foot retail development at the centre of three major freeways carrying over 200,000 cars a day. Nearby is Meadows Mile, a 27-acre parcel overlooking Deerfoot Meadows.  

Victoria’s Bayview Place is a residential development that stretches over 20 prime acres on the last developable piece of land on the city’s Inner Harbour. 

“Site selectors point at Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto. Winnipeg is ready to become the fifth city in this category. You’re not going to get every deal but a company with freight logistics requirements now has a good reason to look at Winnipeg.” 

“This project really cements the tri-modality of CentrePort. It’s very important to us and we’re excited to see it get off the ground with an experienced and patient developer.” 

– Diane Gray, CentrePort’s president and CEO 

Boarding the train  

The Rail Park concept is an industrial park occupied by dozens of tenants that require rail cars to ship their goods all over North America. With so many shippers located in the same vicinity, it would be cost effective for them – and the rail lines-to use rail spurs connecting them to Canadian Pacific’s nearby main line. 

From there, the overall reach of the Rail Park will run from the Port of Churchill and the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas to the Port of Prince Rupert, B.C. and the Port of New Orleans. This end-to-end combination creates the first Canada-U.S.-Mexico rail network, due to CP’s acquisition of Kansas City Southern (KCS) and Kansas City Southern Mexico (KSCM). Its new single-line offerings will provide unmatched access to Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific ports, linking international intermodal shippers with North America’s largest consumer markets.  

Diane Gray, CentrePort’s president and CEO, said her team has been championing the Rail Park for several years but had to keep silent on Focus’s participation until recently.  

“This project really cements the tri-modality of CentrePort. It’s very important to us and we’re excited to see it get off the ground with an experienced and patient developer,” she says.  

“We worked with the province to develop the business case and an RFP for the project. It was a public RFP that went out far and wide. Focus Equities capabilities in managing complicated, large-scale projects came to our attention. As the RFP closed and we reviewed the companies that submitted bids, their bid stood out , so we recommended them as the preferred developer for the Rail Park.”  

On the rise  

Tenant announcements will start rolling out through the spring and summer and although it’s too early to name names, Mariash says they’ll include multi-national corporations and some “very prosperous” Canadian companies. There will even be a few from Manitoba.  

Tenants will be able to start construction simultaneously with the servicing going in, with the goal of being operational at the same time as the servicing is fully installed. 

The park’s target client depends on the industry, but Mariash says he’s got his eye on one global logistics company that handles the packaging and movement of goods.  

“It starts with an ‘A’,” he hints.  

He’s also looking at food supply chain companies, automobile manufacturers, heavy raw material processors, mining and mining-related companies, warehousing, and logistics for distribution across Canada and into the U.S. and Mexico. 

Mariash is quick to note that Focus, after more than a half-century of build-to-suit experience, does nothing but large-scale projects today. One of the gems in its portfolio is Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary, a $1-billion, 400-acre project with four million square feet of retail space. Some of its clients include Fortune 500 companies such as IKEA, Walmart, Loblaws and industrial giants such as Worley Parsons, Kuehne + Nagel and Canadian Freightways. 

Building up  

The Rail Park, strategically located in the R.M. of Rosser within the capital region of Winnipeg on land just west of Sturgeon Road on the north side of CentrePort Canada Way, the highway that connects the west Perimeter Highway with Inkster Boulevard, will offer fully serviced lots ranging in size from a couple of acres to 50 acres or bigger.  

The R. M. of Rosser has been instrumental in driving forward a larger vision for industrial development in the area and its commitment to a purposeful infrastructure build-out has been key to laying the foundation for the construction activity seen today. The R.M.’s close relationship with the Inland Port Special Planning Area, collaborative approach to decision making, and its development­friendly style enables projects to move through the development process quickly and efficiently.  

“We have been committed to CentrePort since the very beginning, and because our developers believed in us, we were able to fast track the infrastructure build-out, laying a foundation for the activity we are seeing today,” says Frances Smee, reeve, Rural Municipality of Rosser. “In Rosser, we believe that strong relationships are vital to success, we operate from a basic principle of fairness to create win/win/win situations for developers, our community and Manitoba. We really are open for business.”  

Mariash estimates capital expenditures on facilities at the Rail Park could hit $3 billion or higher.  

“Some of these buildings are very big and expensive. Land is usually 10 to 20 per cent of the cost. The sweet spot is 40 acres,” he says. 

“Buildings are starting around 200,000 square feet and going up to one million square feet. People are being very conscious of future growth. Some are starting with 300,000 square feet but buying enough land to go to one million square feet. We’re looking at assembling a few more hundred acres if we can. This is getting absorbed relatively quickly.” 

Port of call  

CentrePort was created by the province in 2008 and its 20,000 acres of land include the Richardson International Airport. More than 100 companies have joined the port in the last 14 years.  

CentrePort’s large tri-modal inland port allows goods to move seamlessly between rail, truck, and air cargo .. It also offers access to interstate-quality highways on both the east and west sides of the park, where speed limits rise to 90 km/h just five minutes away. Of course, the Canada-U.S. border crossing an hour south at Emerson, Manitoba is one of Canada’s key land ports for trade. 

Mariash says teamwork will be critical to the Rail Park’s success and the Focus team plans to promote CentrePort at every opportunity.  

“If we help them, it’ll drag us along. We’re working closely with them on pitching the whole 20,000 acres. It’s not just about us, 20,000 acres is a pretty serious piece of dirt near an international airport,” he says.  

“It’s not very often you have running room with no obstacles. It’s all green field and good to go. For Winnipeg and Canada, it’s a significant thing to have 20,000 acres to be developed.”  

Something big is happening  

The Rail Park’s impact could be felt well beyond Manitoba’s and even Canada’s borders. Mariash says it could play a big role in improving the global supply chain. The days of just-in-time delivery are becoming a thing of the past, he says. 

The Rail Park’s impact could be felt well beyond Manitoba’s and even Canada’s borders. 

“The supply chain can’t work that fast. You need storage and warehouse capacity when it’s taking 60 to 90 days to get your product on the shelf,” he says. 

Gray says the Rail Park is unique because it co-locates companies that manage part of their supply chain by rail, which creates an efficiency of scale for the railroads and the companies that share the infrastructure. 

“It’s going to become even more desirable to manage whatever freight you can by rail. It’s less expensive and more environmentally sustainable,” she says. 

Mariash says the RFP process was very thorough.  

“They did a great job sorting through the proposals because they chose us,” he says with a laugh. “You need a meeting of the minds on price and expectations.”  

CentrePort’s facilities can help take some of the pressure off traditional ports, he says.  

“Land logistics and transportation are becoming a very big part of the discussion. The ports are all jammed up. As rail becomes more popular, you can load those trains up quicker. One train hauls five miles of containers,” he says. 

Mariash sees Manitoba becoming a market leader in affordable manufacturing and servicing in the next five to 10 years. 

The right ingredients  

Mariash is quick to caution that the Rail Park couldn’t have gone just anywhere. It needed to be in a city that can support its employees and other needs. 

“You’ ve got to watch carefully the stress you put on a community. Winnipeg has enough talent to support a workforce (at the Rail Park). The schools and medical industry have capacity and when you add in the culture, you’ve got it all. You’ve got a tremendous culture that you should brag about,” he says. 

And if Winnipeg won’t, Mariash will instead. Focus puts on concerts in new markets to show off primarily local artists. For example, it recently hosted a 200-acre concert in Calgary featuring 1 O bands, including Steppenwolf and Tom Jackson.  

“Our budget for marketing and promotion is very large. Our brand is not only the site but the city,” he says.  

Shout it out  

Mariash says the Rail Park’s biggest challenge ahead is getting the word out to as many multi­national companies as possible that want to sell their products in North America and around the globe.  

“Winnipeg has been shy about letting the world know (about itself) and getting into a bragging contest. The first thing is to market it, find out what you’ve got and sell it. Winnipeg has an airport, rail capacity, a great labour force and great schools. The town is screaming to grow. They don’t have to do anything more. They just have to market it and sell it,” he says.  

Winnipeg is essentially at the geographic centre of North America so the location makes perfect sense for both the Rail Park and companies that want to ship their goods, he says.  

Mariash sees Manitoba becoming a market leader in affordable manufacturing and servicing in the next five to 10 years.  

“There’s a huge demand for what Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver can’t do because it’s so expensive. Manitoba should own the space,” he says.  

Gray agrees and believes this project is the largest industrial park that Manitoba has ever seen.  

“I haven’t found one bigger,” she says. “It’s helping to cement that vision of CentrePort as an investment attraction opportunity for companies that are outside of our province, whether that’s in Canada or around the world. It shows that Manitoba has a vision for being able to attract and support investment that includes strategic infrastructure, transportation, labour market needs and skills and other supports that go into a thriving economy.”