The legacy of a Brandon-born-and-raised national entrepreneur is being shared with Assiniboine Community College to carry on his innovation vision.
Assiniboine Community College announced a $1-million donation toward its construction of its Prairie Innovation Centre from Brandon-founded national accounting and professional services firm, MNP.
The announcement was made at the Manitoba Institute for Culinary Arts building Wednesday afternoon with college faculty and administration, politicians and members of the Penny family.
The donation, made in honour of the late Don Penny, who co-founded MNP in 1958, will help to create a new centre for learning and collaboration among farmers, industry, students and government, said Mark Frison, Assiniboine Community College president.
A vital part of the Prairie Innovation Centre’s core principles will be education and connection. It will include research labs and shared spaces and other amenities to benefit students and the agricultural industry.
The centre will be a hub for agricultural studies, where new technology and knowledge will be applied to build the food processing and manufacturing sector of the future. The centre will allow the college to expand the programs for the agricultural environment sectors, as well as advance manufacturing.
"With roots in Westman, both Don Penny and MNP, have long been valuable partners to Assiniboine. Don’s passion for collaboration and innovation, willingness to share knowledge, and his inspirational leadership align closely with what we are working to achieve with the Prairie Innovation Centre," Frison said.
The centre will be located on the college’s North Hill campus, attached to the Manitoba Institute for Culinary Arts. It will be a perfect addition to all the programs already running there, he said, such as the school’s greenhouse, grow plots and of course, the food and beverage programs.
"It will be a pleasure to see his legacy live on through this centre. Don understood that Canadian agriculture is driven by people working together, and this generous contribution in his honour will be transformational for the agricultural industry and in the lives of so many students," Frison said.
The centre is still in the planning stages and the college is working with provincial and federal governments to secure additional funding. A date for when construction will begin has yet to be finalized.
The centre is going to be needed soon. Johanne Ross, executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom and a member of the college’s board of directors, said having a facility like this will be a great motivator to get more people into the sector, as well as teach more people how agriculture touches all the other industries.
There is a diverse number of careers in the sector, with at least one in eight jobs being related to agriculture. However, there is a shortage of people to fill those roles and it is getting bigger.
By 2029, the industry will have 120,000 jobs vacant across the country.
"Every career links back to agriculture and food," she said. "We try to show them that no matter what their passions are, there is a place for them in the agriculture and food industry. Science, technology, maths, and even the arts."
This donation is a natural fit for the vision of Penny, said Jason Tuffs, chairman and chief executive officers of MNP. Those are principles Penny instilled in the firm, and even as they have become a national entity, they have not forgotten those principles, or the city from which they come.
As an individual, Penny embraced giving back to the community and fostering innovation and creativity. He used his expertise and the firm’s reputation to act as a launchpad for those willing to pursue a dream.
"Don’s warmth and charisma made him the consummate people person who was known to lead with both his head and his heart. He believed in people, in discovery, in technology, and in hard work — exactly the activities that will take place in this new Prairie Innovation Centre," Tuffs said.
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