Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, incorporated as a city in 1907, population 12 996 (2011c), 12 728 (2006c). The City of Portage la Prairie, situated 70 km west of Winnipeg, is an important regional service centre for the flat but highly fertile soils of the surrounding Portage Plains. Fort la Reine was built in the vicinity by Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye in 1738, but voyageurs gave the locality its name. After 1794 both the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company maintained trading posts at the portage la prairie ("prairie portage") from the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba. Permanent non-Native settlement began only after 1851, when the Reverend William Cockran (also known as Cochrane) established a mission there.
In 1867-68 the still tiny settlement became the capital of Thomas Spence's short-lived "colony" of Manitobah. After the Pacific Railway reached Portage la Prairie in 1880, the population grew rapidly, and the town was incorporated. Since then, Portage la Prairie has weathered boom and depression, building successfully on its accessibility and exceptional agricultural resource base to become one of the most prosperous communities in Manitoba.
Agriculture and related processing and services are a mainstay of the economy. Along with handling the district's traditional grain and field crops, Portage la Prairie industries now process a diverse line of food products. There are also large cold-storage facilities, as well as the provincial Food Development Centre. Located on the Trans-Canada Highway and both major railway main lines, the city has attracted a variety of nonfood-related businesses to the city's industrial parks. The nearby site of a former Canadian Forces Base (closed in 1992) is home to another industrial park, Southport Aerospace Centre Inc. The community of Southport also is home to Campus Manitoba, a consortium of Manitoba's public post-secondary institutions offering distance learning programs and courses.
The city's main performance venue is the William Glesby Centre, which also includes an art gallery. Fort la Reine Museum features historical buildings, railway cars and a collection of farm equipment. Portage la Prairie's daily paper is the Daily Graphic and it has 2 radio stations.