Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

The Canadian tourism sector has experienced a brisk recovery since the initial pandemic lockdowns, according to economic experts. But that recovery pace has been easing due to higher interest rates, a slowing job market, and broader cyclical slowdown in the U.S. and abroad. In Ontario, many tourism operators continue to face a great deal of debt caused by the pandemic, prompting many to worry about what the future holds. 

 

Locally, tourism in 2024 is expected to continue to do well, despite the ‘economic crunch’ that may prompt travelers to adjust their plans in the coming year. 

 

We reached out to Explore Waterloo CEO Michele Saran to get her take on what the local tourism sector can expect in the New Year:

 

 

How is local tourism shaping up for 2024, considering the economic realities many people are dealing with?

 

Tourism in Waterloo Region is expected to continue doing well into 2024.  We are beating 2019 pre-pandemic; hotel occupancy numbers and campaigns are driving keen interest in our offerings.  Yes, the economic crunch is impacting everyone and may result in visitors spending a bit less but not completely abandoning all vacation plans.  People consider travel a priority and have been shown to spend less in other discretionary areas to afford some kind of getaway with family and friends. Waterloo Region’s main market is the GTA, and we really lean into the concept of being the perfect road trip destination.  This type of travel can be as budget conscious as one wishes.  There are so many affordable options for fun.

 

 

Are local tourism operators feeling optimistic about what is in store for 2024?

 

The operators I speak with are all quite optimistic about a strong 2024, despite concerns around inflation and its impact on visitor spending.  In addition to leisure travel, we are also seeing incredible interest in the region for meetings, conventions, and sporting events.  The tourism industry is nothing if not resilient. Having come out on the other side of a worldwide pandemic that shut everything down completely, we now have the gift of perspective.  

 

 

What are some of the hurdles do local tourism operators face in the coming year?

 

One of the biggest challenges facing tourism operators everywhere (not just in Waterloo Region) is rebuilding the workforce.  Hospitality workers left the industry during the pandemic, and many did not return.  Industry advocacy organizations are working to address this issue from many angles, from working with government to ease immigration barriers to marketing the industry to students as a career choice. Finding affordable housing is a big hurdle for those in the service sector.  Many of the destinations that are the most popular with visitors are also very expensive places to live.  People want to live in the same area where they work, and this presents another labour-related challenge for the tourism industry as well as many others.

 

Despite optimism for next year’s visitation potential, a very significant issue is the amount of debt tourism businesses incurred during the pandemic just to stay afloat and survive.  According to the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, 55% of operators say they lack confidence they will be able to repay their debts in two years and 45% risk closure in three years without government intervention.  Thirty-three percent of tourism businesses indicate that they hold more than 250K in outstanding debt. This is a serious issue and one all tourism advocacy organizations continue to push with government for solutions.

 

 

Is talk of the pandemic a thing of the past?

 

I recently returned from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Annual Tourism Congress.  The conversation was around the legacy effects of COVID cited above but I think the entire industry is ready to put the pandemic itself in the rearview mirror and focus on what we do best – welcoming visitors and showing them why our area is fantastic.   

 

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Our Chamber of Commerce over the years has not only learned how to pivot, but how to address the concerns, issues and needs of the small and medium-sized businesses in our community.

 

The events of the last few years have only strengthened our reason for being. We not only champion small and medium-sized businesses but are a source of information, guidance, and the most powerful connector there is.

 

We have now taken that connection to a new level thanks to ‘The Link’, a place where YOU, an SME business owner/manager can source solutions in a one-stop shop atmosphere. And since this is Small Business Week (Oct. 15-21), it's very important to always remember and celebrate the contributions SMEs make to our economy.

 

For the last seven months, our Chamber has undertaken this huge project (for us). To say we’re excited is a dramatic understatement because for you, we’ve invested and created an exciting, inspirational space that will not only knock your socks off but provide a place where you can share your troubles and find connections to help you navigate those issues that sometimes surface for every business.

 

At The Link you can source HR solutions, legal forms and information, access grant writing, and discover business services of all types that help you streamline, or even eliminate operational costs, and yes, of course, we also have direct access to financial resources only for business.

 

Another aspect to this renovation project is the creation of additional meeting spaces. We can now offer two boardrooms, one that can seat more than 20 and the other between eight and 10, plus a more informal meeting space for five and a private soundproof meeting “pod” also for up to five people. As well, have casual conversation areas and provide a wonderful coffee service.

 

The Link is modern, accessible, and a great place to have a coffee and share conversation all contained in little over 2,220-square-feet of prime real estate at Highway 401 and Hespeler Road.

 

Along with this incredibly cool and unique space comes some unbeatable programming to help you and your team get onside, get ramped up, and get excited for what comes next.

 

Programming at The Link has already been released and space is very limited, so you need to get in early and make sure there is a seat for you. Our Program Manager, (Amrita Gill), is already developing new and different ways for us to connect with meaning, with passion, and as always, with inspiring ideas.

 

The doors opened Oct. 1 and we already have some committed entities ready to set up shop at The Link, but there may still be room for you and your organization. Do you serve only small and medium-sized business? If so, send me a note and maybe, if all the checkmarks are in place, we may just have a spot for you at The Link, but you need to hurry. Yes, there is a cost because we are not a “funded” organization and our support comes from our membership.

 

Speaking of membership, did you know the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has NOT increased its membership fees in more than 25 years? Talk about an inflation stopper, wow! That is what serving business means to us. We will always find ways to support you and now we are looking for your support to continue the work we do.

 

So please share your expertise with us and book a pod at The Link, or come in and get help from organizations and businesses that are here for you. Even better, drop in and enjoy a coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso, or my personal favourite, a mochaccino. Hey, I might even buy you one. See you soon at The Link, 750 Hespeler Rd., the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

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The following piece is one of several appearing in the special summer edition of  our Insight Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

A variety of components are required to build a successful community.

 

Among these is a strong link to higher education, something Cambridge has been fortunate to have since its amalgamation courtesy of Conestoga College.

 

Founded in 1967 as Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology, it was among 22 community colleges established by the Ontario government between 1966-69 to provide diplomas and certificates in career-related, skills-oriented programs.

 

In the beginning, Conestoga College offered only part-time classes out of Preston High School as construction began on its Doon campus site in the south end of Kitchener, and by 1969 had already expanded by setting up Adult Education Centres in Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, and Waterloo. It also began offering 17 full-time programs set up in portables at its Doon site to accommodate 188 students, with 67 of them attending its very first convocation in 1969.

 

But the college faced growing demand which resulted in the opening of a permanent campus in Guelph in 1970. Within a few years, not only did construction began on its Early Childhood Education Centre at its main Doon campus but the college also established its nursing program when the responsibility of four regional schools of nursing was transferred to Conestoga.

 

Throughout the next few decades as Cambridge expanded, the college continually added additional programs to keep pace with growing demands, to the point where it currently serves approximately 26,000 students (12,500 full time) through its eight campuses and training centres in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford, Guelph, Ingersoll, and Brantford.

 

Being designated in 2003 as one three Institutes of Technology and Advance Learning by the province, along with Humber and Sheridan colleges, opened even more possibilities for the college now that it could award degrees to students in its Mechanical Systems Engineering program and Bachelor of Architecture Project & Facility Management program. Additional degree programs were added in the years that followed.

 

“I think the college has come a long way because we have a vision, we have a purpose and we’ve been trying to get a little better,” said Conestoga College President John Tibbits, who took on the job in 1987, in a previous interview with the Chamber.

 

In the fall of 2006, he shared some of that vision when plans were unveiled for a proposed Cambridge campus to be located on a 136-acre site near Blair. According to an article published in the Cambridge Times that September, the campus was to become home to four centres of excellence with the consolidation of many existing engineering technology and industry trade programs from the Doon and Guelph campuses.

 

The cost for this venture was pegged at $47 million and would include a 200,000-square-foot building to house 1,600 students by 2009.

 

In the end, the college’s Engineering & Technology Campus opened on Fountain Street South in Cambridge in 2011. The 260,000-square-foot building – awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification - not only houses innovative technology labs and shops, but the Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) which features processing lines for beverages, baked goods, vegetables, and a food testing laboratory. This 8,000-square-foot plant is a one-of-a-kind learning facility in Canada.

 

A year later the college established its Centre for Smart Manufacturing, with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, to provide students from various IT and engineering programs with a hands-on chance to work with industry partners in the robotics, automation, and manufacturing sectors.

 

In 2018, the Conestoga Applied Research Facility opened at 96 Grand Ave. South in downtown Cambridge and now plays host to the rebranded SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre which made the move from the Doon campus. It now occupies 10,000 square feet of space in the historic Grand Innovations building for applied research with another 7,000 to 8,000 used to house the centre’s fully operational recycling plant.

 

“SMART Centre is all about engagement with industry and the ability for us, as subject matter experts in advanced manufacturing, recycling and digital innovation, to engage with students and industry partners to help solve industry challenges,” said Ignac Kolenko, Executive Director of the SMART Centre, in a previous Chamber interview.

 

However, the college made an even bigger investment in Cambridge when it transformed the former Erwin Hymer Group North America manufacturing plant into its state-of-the-art Skilled Trades campus.

 

The 250,000 square foot building on Reuter Drive, the former home to the BlackBerry repair centre, was purchased by Conestoga College in 2019 at a cost of $33.5 million with the aim to bring all its trade schools together under a single roof.

 

“It’ll give us a chance to have one of the most comprehensive and high-quality trades facilities in the province,” Tibbits told the Waterloo Record at the time. “This is a game-changer.”

 

The campus opened in 2022 and features more than 150,000 square feet of shops and labs designed and equipped to meet the unique requirements of trades education and training. Additional phases for the 40+-acre property are currently underway.

 

But the college’s commitment to education has also been matched by its ongoing commitment to the local community and its $1.5 million partnership with the City of Cambridge towards the creation of the Fountain Street Soccer Complex is the perfect example. The site will feature seven fields – four with natural turf and three with synthetic turf – as well as a 6,500 square-foot-service building.


“Conestoga has a long and proven history of working with our municipal partners to address local economic, social and workforce needs,” said Tibbits. “The college greatly appreciates our partnership with the City of Cambridge and with leading Cambridge employers such as Toyota, ATS and Eclipse Automation as well as with our many applied research partners and collaborators as we all work together to build a stronger, more prosperous community.”

 

Just the facts 

  • Conestoga grads contribute more than $2.3 billion to the local economy annually
  • 5,231 Ontario businesses are owned by Conestoga College graduates
  • 4.8% of Conestoga College’s alumni are business owners (5,416 businesses owned by grades).
  • Since 2018, more than 170 employers have relied on Conestoga College’s Corporate Training services to support the upskilling of their employees
  • Nearly 55% of the local adult population has participated in Conestoga’s education and training opportunities
  • The college welcomes 2,500 international students from 80 countries – largest number of students from India, with South Korea, China, Brazil, Central America, and Nigeria
  • International students now represent 20% of full-time student population
  • Nearly 80% of international students remain in Canada when they graduate
  • More than 1,500 Conestoga students participate in applied research projects annually
  • 96.6% of Conestoga grads live in Ontario, with 64.8% living in the local community

 

* Courtesy of Conestoga College

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The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of  our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

As dignitaries gathered for the ground-breaking ceremony of Toyota Motor Corporation’s much anticipated Cambridge assembly plant on May 6, 1986, the Waterloo Record reported that four windsocks painted to look like fish hung outside the tent where officials had gathered.

 

Called ‘koinobori’ or carp streamer, Toyota Motor Corporation’s late president Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda explained the significance of the gesture, noting the fish is known as one that fights its way, even up a waterfall.

 

“The carp streamer is used as a symbol of vitality for parents who wish good health and strong development for their children,” he was quoted at the time. “We have hoisted the koinobori here in the hope that our company will grow to become a business appreciated and respected by everyone as a whole.”

 

Nearly 40 years later, it’s clear this ‘hope’ for success has manifested as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. continues to be a major industry and economic leader, and community partner for Cambridge and southwestern Ontario as a whole.

 

From the moment the first Corolla rolled off the assembly line at its Cambridge facility shortly before 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1988, the company has continually succeeded creating hundreds of new jobs over the years through the expansion of new product lines.

 

Cambridge was selected from over 40 municipalities in Canada for the plant and federal government incentives were a consideration. Former Cambridge MP Chris Speyer, quoted in an article in the Dec. 12, 1985, edition of the Cambridge Reporter announcing the news, said there were incentives in the contract to encourage Toyota to buy Canadian parts and that the provincial government would contribute $15 million over five years toward a program to train Ontario workers.

 

“I’m extraordinarily proud of our community that Toyota would choose us to locate such a major enterprise. This is the happiest day of my political career,” he told the Reporter, before describing the “tremendous positive impact” the plant would have on the local economy, noting the average salaries at that time would range from between $25,000 to $30,000.

 

“Just think of what that means to housing in our area, to shopping and small business as well as the spin-off effect by other industries locating within our area in order to service Toyota,” said Speyer.

 

The Cambridge plant was expected, in the beginning, to produce 50,000 cars a year with the capacity to reach 100,000 when market conditions permitted, providing work for 1,000 employees.

 

In a Reporter article published a year before the plant opened, it was reported that a progress report indicated it would provide 1,000 direct manufacturing jobs that would result in another 2,000 new jobs in the automotive and service industry.

 

To date, TMMC now employs more than 8,500 people across its three production lines in Cambridge and Woodstock. In Cambridge alone, its North and South plants encompass three million square feet on 400 acres located at the corner of Maple Grove Road and Fountain Street North.

 

The company, which has won numerous awards recognizing it as a ‘top employer’ and ‘greenest employer’, continues to thrive and evolve.

 

In August of last year, it marked a special anniversary when a red Lexus NX 350h hybrid electric luxury SUV, rolled off the line in Cambridge representing the 10th million vehicle produced by TMMC.

 

“Today’s milestone speaks to how far Toyota’s manufacturing operations in Canada have come over the past three decades,” said TMMC President Frank Voss in a press release at the time. “In 1988, the year we opened our first plant in Cambridge, our team members built 153 Toyota Corollas and it took over 11 years to produce our first 11 million vehicles. Today, we’re Canada’s largest automaker and leading maker of electrified vehicles, building half a million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for the North American market every year. Our world-class team members have been trusted to build some of the most popular vehicles in North America and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

 

 

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The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of  our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

Feisty. Fun. Skillful. Dedicated. Hard-working.

 

These are just a few of the words those who knew and worked closely with Claudette Millar were quoted in various tributes to describe Cambridge’s first mayor following her death in February 2016 after a battle with stomach cancer.

 

Born in Belleville in 1935 but raised in Kitchener, Claudette obtained a degree in sociology in Mississippi before taking a job in the travel industry which led her to move to Ireland for a time before returning to Canada to marry her husband, Clare Millar.

 

At the age of 35 in 1969, she was elected as Mayor of the Town of Preston making her not only Canada’s youngest mayor but one of the first female mayors in the country.

 

Standing firm on a platform of open government to ensure residents knew how things in their community were being handled, Claudette became the first mayor of the newly formed City of Cambridge following the amalgamation of Galt, Preston, Hespeler and Blair in 1973.

 

Bringing these communities together in an uneasy alliance was a big job for Claudette who used her outstanding leadership abilities and forward thinking to get Cambridge on track, only to be tested early on in 1974 when the Grand River overflowed its banks flooding downtown Galt causing millions in damages. And on the personal side, a month after the amalgamation a fire at her Blair home claimed the life of her 81-year-old father-in-law, Bertrum Millar.

 

Claudette persevered and went on to be lauded for her advocacy work to preserve the city’s cultural and environmental heritage. She was a vocal opponent against a proposed freeway bypass that would have disrupted the Dumfries Conservation Area and the Rare Charitable Reserve, but also knew how to have fun winning the annual mayors’ bathtub race in 1974 for the second year in a row at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

 

Claudette also sat on numerous boards and committees as mayor, as well as Region of Waterloo Council where she gained the admiration from many of her political colleagues for being astute politically and never confrontational, always considering regional interests.

 

“Claudette never worked behind your back. She was upfront. We could have some great arguments about things, but it was always done with respect,” former Regional Chair Ken Seiling was quoted as saying in a 2016 Waterloo Record article upon Claudette’s death.

 

She served two non-consecutive terms as Cambridge mayor from 1973 to 1974, and again from 1978 to 1988 and played an instrumental role in bringing the Toyota plant to the community, creating a massive economic impact throughout Waterloo Region.

 

However, throughout her municipal career Claudette did set her sights on a provincial political career and ran three times unsuccessfully as an Ontario Liberal Party candidate to represent Cambridge. The first time was in 1975, again in 1977, followed by a third attempt in 1987. She made a final effort for the local Liberal nomination in 1999 long after her mayoral career ended but lost to Jerry Boyle.

 

Prior to that political attempt, Claudette was appointed to the Ontario Municipal Board when she retired as mayor and served on the board until 1992.

 

But her love for municipal politics brought her back and in 2003 she returned to serve on Waterloo Regional Council representing Cambridge before announcing her retirement in 2014. 

 

And when she wasn’t busy trying to make Cambridge a better place, Claudette could be found relaxing at her very rustic cottage located on a Sharbot Lake island, just north of Kingston.

 

“She’s a person who had a lot of extraordinary skills. Everything she did, she did well,” her good friend Justice Paddy Hardman was quoted as saying by the Record upon Claudette’s death.

 

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With concerns about the pandemic now in the past, how is the 2023 summer tourism season shaping up?

 

According to a report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario released in December of 2022, it was stated that the province’s tourism industry was not fully expected to recover from the pandemic until 2025.

 

 

We reached out to Explore Waterloo Region CEO Michele Saran to get a sense of what the summer tourism season may be bring locally:

 

Q. How much does tourism contribute to our local economy?

 

A. Tourism is big business.  Over 5 million visitors come to our region annually, injecting more than 557M into the economy.  Tourism is also a catalyst for trade.  People may come to our area for a staycation, sporting event or a business meeting and may like what they see and choose to move here, invest here, or send their kids to school at one of our fabulous academic institutions.  Places that are great for visitors are also great for residents.  Everyone wants to live in a place with wonderful restaurants, retail, and attractions as well as nature.

 

Q. What is your prediction for the summer tourism season in Waterloo Region? Better than last year?

 

A. I predict Waterloo Region will have a strong summer season in 2023 surpassing 2022.  It seems that any lingering concerns about COVID are now mostly gone, and Explore Waterloo Region is launching our promotional campaign as early as possible this year. Many people are looking for getaway options closer to home considering inflation etc.  Given a full 96% of visitors to the Region are from other parts of Ontario, we should be in a good position.

 

Q. What is the driving factor for people to get out and explore this summer?

 

A. For 2023, there is still incredible pent-up demand for travel after the pandemic but the driving factor about destination selection is affordability.  People want to get out and have fun, authentic experiences but cost may force many to explore options closer to home.  Luckily, we have those kinds of experiences in abundance in Waterloo Region!

 

Q. Are ‘staycations’ still as popular or are people ready to explore even further this year?

 

A. Search analytics show people are definitely ready to travel internationally but the high cost of air travel and media reports of airport congestion and other challenges are mitigating factors when it comes to actually booking.  “Staycations” are always popular with our target market in Ontario.  Easy getaways that are close to home and affordable.

 

Q. Do labour shortages continue to persist in the hospitality and tourism industry and if so, will it have an impact this summer?

 

A. There are 80% more job openings in our sector now than in 2019.  In fact, of the almost 2000 open positions in Waterloo Region in Q1 of 2023, almost half were tourism related.  That said, our industry is nothing if not adaptable and resilient.  Businesses may have to modify their opening hour and job duties may shift to encompass a broader array of tasks, but everyone is motivated to take advantage of the pandemic winding down.

 

Q. What are people looking for this year when it comes to spending money on tourism, considering the higher cost of living?

 

A. People are leaning into the idea of the “road trip” with friends or family to save money which is exactly how we are marketing to the GTA.  We are positioning Waterloo Region as the ultimate road trip destination with something for everyone.  Cities on the edge on the nature; authentic cultural experiences and incredible farm-to-fork, culinary options.

 

Q. How has Explore Waterloo Region been preparing for the 2023 summer season?

 

A. All throughout 2022 Explore Waterloo Region has been actively working on product development.  We have been looking to leverage our tourism icons and create packages that will make people want to stay longer in our area and spend more. 

This year we will offer some incredible experiences on the Grand River that feature overnight luxury glamping and indigenous-themed feasts; we have another package that celebrates our amazing “farm to fork” culinary offerings where one can have an al fresco dining experience in a beautiful orchard; there will also be a curated Oktoberfest experience that allows one to really see the best of the best of that festival and it includes a luxury hotel stay.  All these experiences will be marketed on www.explorewaterloo.ca and via our aforementioned “road trip” campaign on our social channels.

In terms of our efforts in Business Events and Sport hosting, we always encourage delegates to add on a leisure visit pre or post to make the most of their time in Waterloo Region.

 

Q.  What are a few of the ‘must see’ attractions in our Region this summer?

 

A. There are so many options for people this summer!  Of course, all our annual festivals are back – Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, Bluesfest, the Waterloo Busker Carnival and Downtown Kitchener and Cambridge both have Ribfests -to name just a few!

For those that want to get outside and be active, there are some wonderful opportunities to Canoe the Grand with Grand River Experiences or explore on horseback.   We also have over 500 km of trails in the Region.  One can hike or cycle them.  Explore Waterloo Region has partnered with Zeitspace on a new cycling app that is hyper-local and will let you plan your route by level of difficulty.  It also layers on all the bike-friendly, certified businesses along the way!

Canada Day offers up the Stihl Timbersports Rookie Championships at Bingemans and Cambridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the “Cambridge Celebrates Canada Day” event.

For those seeking a bit of culture, The Neebing Art Fair will be returning to Bingemans showcasing incredible indigenous art.  Of course, St. Jacobs always has something going on and it’s a great launching point to get out and do a farm gate tour through the townships to buy the best in local produce and get a sense of our wonderful Mennonite community.

People can always check out our events calendar at www.explorewaterloo.ca for more detail and options.

 

 

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Excitement is building for Business Expo 2023.

 

This popular trade show, which hasn’t been held since 2019, returns to Bingemans on May 10 and will feature more than 200 exhibitors and at least 1,500 attendees from throughout Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph.

 

“This has always been a great opportunity for local businesses to not only showcase what they do but meet and network with other business leaders,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “It also will provide job hunters, entrepreneurs and businesses the chance to make professional connections.”

 

Business Expo 2023, co-sponsored by the Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph Chambers of Commerce, is free for the public to attend and will also feature many local food and beverage vendors. It runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., providing ample time to check out the displays.

 

“All three Chambers are pleased to have the chance once again to be able to work together on this event which gives attendees the opportunity to really learn about some of the great local businesses we have,” says Greg.

 

For businesses taking part in the trade show, he says the quality of their displays can make or break the experience for them.

 

“Exhibitors new to trade shows tend to focus on the flashy; they want to create displays that will draw crowds,” he says. “But that’s not the point. It’s not the number of people your display draws that matters; it’s whether or not your exhibit engages them when they’re there.”

 

To maximize your networking at Business Expo 2023, here are a few tips:

 

  • Neatness and visibility - Keep your display neatly organized and clearly mark all your prices.
  • Build Demand - Spark customers’ interest by placing a sold sign on a few items, or by leaving a display spot empty.
  • Be Interactive - Contests, prizes, demonstrations, games, and quizzes will generate interest in your display.
  • Offer Takeaways - Provide visitors with a small item they can take home with them.
  • Clear Signage - Ensure basic information and prices are clearly visible for visitors.
  • Literature - Stock up on brochures and fliers, as well as price sheets and business cards.
  • Be Business Ready - Make sure you have pens and order forms ready to process potential sales.
  • Engage With Visitors - A friendly welcome and the proper body language can go a long way.
  • Always Be Open - Ensure your booth is never left empty.
  • Follow Up Promptly - The faster you send out emails or make a call the better it is for your business.

 

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A recent report released by the Conference Board of Canada indicates Waterloo Region’s economy will be slower this year but predicts it will outpace the provincial economy.

 

While the impact of a potential slowdown is a concern, one of the key issues for local businesses remains a shortage of workers.

 

The unemployment rate in our region hit 5.5% in 2022, compared to 6.5% in 2021 and 9.6% in 2020. This year, it’s expected to reach 5.8%.

 

Provincewide, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada showed there were 372,000 job vacancies during the third quarter of 2022, nearly double the average of vacancies (195,000) reported during the three years leading up to 2020.

 

In effort to provide local employers with another avenue to find talent, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce recently launched its online job portal.

 

“Labour shortages continue to be an issue in so many sectors,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “By providing as many opportunities as possible for local employers to find the help they require is a benefit to our business community as a whole and we’re glad to be able to offer this service.”

 

The easy-to-use portal can be accessed by the public to search and apply for positions posted by Chamber Members in a variety of sectors. 

 

Chamber Members can upload and manage their own posts, which includes contact information and job descriptions.

 

The system allows job seekers to search for positions in Waterloo Region and the surrounding area.

 

Current posts feature jobs in several sectors, including the financial, insurance, medical and automobile industries.

 

“It’s a very user-friendly system giving our Members the ability to post multiple job opportunities,” says Greg, noting the Chamber does not manage the posts itself.

 

Visit the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce job portal to learn more.

 

 

A few facts and figures:

  • In Waterloo Region, the employment rate in 2022 rose by 10,700 jobs (3.3%) to a record 332,140, compared to an increase of 15,250 jobs (5%) in 2021.
  • Overall employment is in our region is expected to increase by 1% this year due to 4,250 jobs in finance, insurance, and real estate, as well as 3,300 jobs in manufacturing.
  • 60% of the job vacancies in Ontario require no more than high school education, paying on average less than $20 an hour. 
  • Nearly 200,000 jobs require less than one year of experience.
  • More than one-third of the job vacancies are in sales and service.
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The weather may be colder, but things are heating up fast when it comes to the winter tourism season in Waterloo Region.

 

In fact, tourism spending in Canada in general is expected to recover quicker than anticipated according to Destination Canada’s latest tourism outlook which is predicting a return to 2019 levels by 2024, up from 2025 as predicted last spring. As well, the report indicates Canada’s tourism sector could generate more than $142 billion by 2030 which represents a 35% growth over the next decade.

 

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Explore Waterloo Region CEO Michele Saran, noting that domestic travel has recovered much quicker than international visits.

 

“When you’re talking about Waterloo Region, keeping in mind we receive 96% of our visitations from the GTA, we expect to be fully recovered here to 2019 levels by 2023,” she says. “In fact, we’re almost there now.”

 

Michele credits this local rebound not only on a growing pent-up demand for travel opportunities following pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, but the fact the region has so much to offer.

 

“When you talk about the winter season, in Waterloo Region we always do quite well,” she says. “Interestingly, I’ve never seen a destination that doesn’t take a hit at this time of year except for us, and Christmas really seems to be our ‘thing’.”

 

Michele credits the numerous holiday festivals and activities for providing a major boost to our local tourism and hospitality sector, including Cambridge’s ‘Winterfest’ which offers numerous events and displays until the end of the month, Kitchener’s recent ‘Christkindl Market’ and KWFamous ‘Holiday Pop-Shoppe’, as well as Bingemans’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Gift of Lights’ events.

 

“Everybody (tourism operators) seems very positive about this season,” she says. “And we’ve been doing our Road Trip campaign for the last few months on social media, and we’ve been talking about winter and amplifying all the fabulous things you can do within an easy drive of our target market.”

 

Besides Christmas activities, Michele says Waterloo Region is loaded with a variety of winter attractions such as Chicopee which should be welcoming skiers and tubers soon, as well Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge for walking and cross-country skiing.

 

As well, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada has once again started its plant tours, which provide an inside look at its Cambridge facility via a motorized tram.

 

“Also, St. Jacobs and Elmira are always beautiful and magical places to visit in the winter,” she says, adding Explore Waterloo Region has been encouraging people to utilize the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. 

 

The credit, which expires at the end of the month, allows Ontario residents to claim 20% of their eligible 2022 accommodation (cottage, hotel, or campground) expenses up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you spouse, common-law partner, or children, to get back up to $200 as an individual or $400 as a family.

 

“We’re actually lobbying as an industry to keep the tax credit in place for next year as well,” says Michele. “As you know, we were the first industry hit and the hardest hit and the last to recover, so we would love to keep this value added as part of our marketing arsenal.”

 

In terms of any potential threat from what has been dubbed as the ‘tripledemic’ (Flu, RSV and COVID-19), she remains optimistic that local tourism operators are prepared.

 

“I think everyone in the tourism industry is really good at listening to public health recommendations, and because our industry was the first hit, we’ve had to create all different types of scenarios about how to open safely and serve the public,” says Michele. “We’ve become really good at it and have a lot of practice.”

 

Visit Explore Waterloo Region to learn more.

 

A few things to check out:

  • Cambridge Winterfest – runs until Dec. 31 and features light installations and a variety of events in all three downtown cores.
  • Bingemans - Jingle Bell Rock, runs until Jan. 7 and outdoor light displays, surrounding a 40-foot dancing tree illumination. Gift of Lights runs until Dec. 31. Drive through holiday light display featuring over 300 animated and static light displays.
  • KWFamous Holiday Pop-Shoppe - Until Dec. 30 featuring more than 80 local makers and creators taking part at shop located across from Kitchener City Hall.
  • Jakobstettel – Celebrates 170 Years of St. Jacobs, featuring a series of events until Dec. 18.
  • The City of Waterloo hosts  Winterloo on Jan 28, 2023
  • Toyota Plant Tour – a 90-minute tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s Cambridge facility. Tours currently run Monday to Wednesday.
  • Chicopee 

 

*  With files from the Toronto Star    

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As discussion mounts about another pandemic wave this summer, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is prepared to do what it can to help businesses and their employees remain safe.

 

Since the beginning of April 2021, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province on a pilot program to provide free rapid antigen self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

That program – open to all SMEs not just Chamber Members – continues this summer and as of June more than 1.2 million kits had been distributed to more than 9,100 businesses in our area. This translates into screening kits being provided to approximately 151,000 individuals which in turn aims to help curb transmission of the virus in the community.

 

“We must always be ready. We need to accept the fact there is a ‘new normal’ and that consistency in our environment is not in our favour any longer,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We need to ensure our business and ourselves are nimble, prepared, and strategic.”

 

Like many public health agencies in Ontario, through wastewater testing the Region of Waterloo Public Health has detected an increase in positivity rates indicating an increase in COVID-19 activity.

 

In a recent edition of the Waterloo Record, Region of Waterloo Public Health’s Sharon Ord is quoted as saying: “Although the wastewater signal — up to June 25, 2022 — is dominated by Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are increasing in Waterloo Region.”

 

According to health experts, these subvariants are the most transmissible variants of Omicron and can evade the immune system in previously infected individuals.

 

For this reason, Greg is urging businesses to ensure they are well stocked with screening kits in effort to provide as much protection as possible to their employees and customers.

 

“Don’t dismantle your plexiglass dividers just yet or toss out your hand sanitizer. Ensure you have access to a good supply of masks to keep you, your employees, and your customers safe, which in turn will keep your business safe,” he says. “We are so very close to finding our way out of this so let’s not blow it now. The ‘new normal’ is here to stay. Let’s be prepared, always.”

 

The program was expanded by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network to Chambers provincewide soon after it launched here.

 

In Waterloo Region, businesses can order kits by visiting chambercheck.ca.

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