Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Debating policies to create evidence-based solutions that will benefit the business community and province’s economic growth played an important role at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent 2024 Annual General Meeting and Convention in Timmins.

 

Approximately 100 delegates representing Chambers provincewide made the trek north, including Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher and incoming Board Chair Murray Smith.

 

“Ensuring businesses have the legislative backing and supports they need to succeed and prosper is at the core of what Chambers and Boards of Trade do and the policies approved at this event assists our network in creating a roadmap to make that happen,” says Greg. “The conference also provides a great opportunity to connect with other Chamber leaders and share ideas and best practices.”

 

This year, 28 policies were approved by the delegates covering a wide variety of issues that can directly affect businesses including labour, education, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, and housing.  These policies now become entrenched in the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s policy ‘play book’ to guide its ongoing advocacy work at Queen’s Park.

 

The AGM, held April 25-27 and referred to as A Northern Experience, featured sessions related to the creation of a more prosperous business climate for success in Ontario’s north surrounding labour and supply chain issues touching on the needs of the growing EV market in the southern part of the province. Guest speakers included Minister of Mines the Hon. George Pirie, plus representatives from the mining and renewable energy sectors.

 

Another session focused on the OCC’s Economic Reconciliation Initiative, created in partnership with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and provided delegates the opportunity to share challenges and opportunities with OCC representatives that they have regarding building relationships with Indigenous Peoples and businesses in their communities.

 

The OCC will now review their findings and report back to the Ontario Chamber Network with feedback and potential solutions.

 

Economic growth imperative

 

The need to create economic growth was at the heart of a video message shared with delegates from Canadian Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Perrin Beatty, who urged the government to modernize its regulatory framework.

 

“Requiring federal regulators to apply an economic and competitive lens would encourage manageable regulations and reduce the interprovincial trade barriers affecting over 1/3 of Canadian businesses,” he said, adding doing this would ‘fortify’ Canada’s economic foundation. “Modernizing our regulatory framework would cost the government little or nothing at a time when Canadians and businesses from coast to coast are struggling with affordability. The government should be looking to relieve financial burdens wherever possible.”

 

Beatty also stressed the need for strategic and long-term investment in infrastructure to create a “resilient network” of gateways and corridors. 

 

“As the world increasingly needs what Canada can provide, it’s critical that Canadian businesses are able to get their goods and services to market reliably,” he said. “If we have learned anything from 2023 is that supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link.”

 

As well, Beatty also called on the need for the government to provide financial supports, like the CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account) program during the pandemic, that require more tailored, strategic, and innovative solutions.

 

“The issue isn’t about how to bail out small businesses but how to build them out,” he said, adding collaboration between the Canadian and Ontario Chambers of Commerce, as well as local Chambers, is needed to make change happen. “The work of the Canadian and Ontario Chambers, and the rest of the Chamber network has never been more important than it is today. Canada has never more greatly needed what we as a network of Chambers can offer.”

 

Click here to see the OCC Policy Compendium.

 

 

Cambridge Chamber policies approved by Ontario delegates

 

The AGM provides an opportunity for Chamber leaders to come together to discuss and debate key policies that shape the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) advocacy agenda for the coming year. The Cambridge Chamber presented three policies which received overwhelming support from delegates:

 

  • The first policy calls for the Province, in consultation with municipalities, police boards, and businesses communities, to use economic analysis principles when it comes to current and potential crime diversion programs that could reduce crime and in turn make it safer for businesses to operate. As well, the policy recommends that underperforming programs that don’t adequately serve communities of all types be identified and that funding be prioritized accordingly, and that the efficacy of these programs be evaluated in the context of other wrap-around services available in each community. Also, the policy calls for the implementation of a system to measure the long-term impacts of these program investments and insists municipalities continue to use Special Constables in urban areas instead of fully sworn officers to reduce tax burdens.
  • The second policy, which the Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored,calls for the establishment of timelines for the Province’s new Building Ontario Fund (formerly the Ontario Infrastructure Bank) to commence investments into projects. It also calls for a strategy put in place to ensure these investments in major projects are in municipalities and regions across Ontario.
  • The third policy, which the Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored, recommends the Province initiate a major review of provincial-municipal fiscal arrangements to ensure cost-effective program delivery and maintenance/expansion of infrastructure.
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Advocating for public policies that can benefit businesses has been a cornerstone feature of the Chamber of Commerce movement for generations.

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, like many of its counterparts in the Ontario Chamber network, works consistently all year striving to translate the needs and wants of their members into potential policy resolutions aimed at prompting change at both the provincial and federal levels of government.

 

But this work, and the work of other Chambers, is often carried out without many of their members even aware there is a widespread network advocating on their behalf.

 

“This isn’t unique to the Chamber movement and quite common for any advocacy organization because it’s a concept so intangible to a lot of individuals who aren’t engaging in it and don’t necessarily understand the value of it,” says Andrea Carmona, Manager of Public Affairs for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Advocacy, I feel, is a little bit like a unicorn. When you’re a small business owner who is probably focused on keeping your business running, you’re more likely to be looking towards your local Chamber for what are the more tangible services they can offer – programs, events, and grants.”

 

She says collectively, promoting its advocacy work is something the Ontario Chamber network must communicate clearly as possible.

 

“It is kind of a difficult thing to explain to people, but really it’s all about amplifying issues and having a chorus of voices saying the same thing so that we can move the needle and make an impact,” says Andrea. “That’s ultimately what advocacy looks to do.”

 

Making that impact formulated the basis of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park. This nineth annual event gave nearly 100 delegates representing Chambers provincewide, including Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher and Board President Kristen Danson, the opportunity to meet with MPPs to discuss various issues facing business communities.

 

Some of the key areas targeted by delegates included:

 

  • Investing in inclusive workforce development: To address labour shortages, investments to resolve skills mismatches are vital. These initiatives should be designed to close the gap between current workforce skills and the evolving demands of Ontario’s labour market.
  • Enhancing sustainable infrastructure: Strategic investments in smart and sustainable infrastructure, including transportation, clean energy, and digital connectivity, can boost immediate economic activity while supporting long-term growth. This includes expanding broadband access in rural and remote areas and upgrading public transit and road networks.
  • Fostering a business-friendly environment:  Implementing policies that reduce red tape and create a conducive environment for business growth is essential. This includes reviewing and streamlining regulatory processes, providing tax incentives for businesses looking to grow and targeted support for small businesses.
  • Cultivating resilient, healthy communities: Improving health data system integration, addressing capacity gaps in health human resources, and empowering municipalities with new revenue sources are crucial steps in ensuring the well-being of Ontarians and fostering community prosperity.

 

Although the Chamber network’s advocacy efforts are ongoing year-round, Andrea says Advocacy Day provides an ideal opportunity for face-to-face meetings and discussions with the decisionmakers.

 

“It’s all about ongoing engagement and follow up,” she says. “It can’t just be a single day of advocacy. We need to ensure Chambers are keeping connected with their local MPPs. A lot of this is relationship building since they see Chambers as a credible source for what is happening on the ground.”

 

Andrea says building those relationships sets the groundwork for support and the ability to drive change that can assist the business community.

 

“It’s a great opportunity to connect across party lines,” she says. “Politics is unpredictable, and you don’t know what is going to happen in 2026 so you want to ensure you are establishing relationships across the board. We are a non-partisan organization and of course the government of the day is important, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be engaging with other parties.”

 

Andrea notes it’s also a two-way street for the decisionmakers who participate in Advocacy Day, as well.

 

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to hear about such a broad stroke of local perspectives across the province,” she says.

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In the past year local businesses have faced many issues surrounding economic and labour concerns.

 

Despite these challenges, many have managed to prevail and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles which is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is encouraging local business leaders to recognize their success through a nomination at our annual Business Excellence Awards.

 

“The hard work of our business community is something we should all be very proud of and celebrate, especially during these current economic times,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “Our awards are an important way to show how much our business community means to all of us.”

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the achievements and contributions of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000. 

 

It features 11 award categories, most of whom require nominations. These include Business of the Year, Spirit of Cambridge, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented to the owner or director of a new or existing business that has achieved great success this past year.

 

“We have so many dynamic and innovative young business leaders in our community,” says Greg, referring to this award. “This is a great opportunity for them to be recognized for their work at building a successful business.”

 

Also included among the award categories are the prestigious Chair’s Award which is selected among from among the nominees and the Community Impact Award which is presented to an individual who has contributed, or continues to contribute, to the overall prosperity, economic growth, or vibrancy of the community.

 

“These awards really speak to the calibre of businesspeople we have in Cambridge,” says Greg, adding the awards are great way to let others know what local businesses have accomplished. “This is the time to share your story.” 

 

The awards will be held May 29 at Tapestry Hall. Nominations close Feb. 23.

Click here to submit a nomination.

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

Spirit of Cambridge AwardThis award recognizes an outstanding effort and commitment to making Cambridge and/or Township of North Dumfries a better, more prosperous community through corporate leadership and social responsibility.

 

Business of the Year (1 – 10 employees)This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (11 – 49 employees)Given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (More than 50 employees)This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment; products and services; growth in business; employee retention.

 

New Venture of the Year Award –   This award is presented to a new or existing business that through innovation of design and technology has significantly improved the esthetics and functionality of their operation.

 

Outstanding Workplace – Employer of the Year - The recipient of this award goes above and beyond to ensure it provides employees with the best overall workplace, with a strong focus on a happy and healthy work culture and environment.

 

Marketing ExcellenceThis award is presented to the business or organization that has best demonstrated excellence, innovation, and originality in traditional or new-media marketing.

 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year AwardThe recipient of this award is presented to the director/owner aged 18-40 of a new or existing business who has achieved outstanding results by successfully building it up to a new level.

 

WOWCambridge.com Customer Service Award - Each month the Chamber has recognized an individual at a business who has gone above and beyond, providing extraordinary service in everyday situations. These individuals and the businesses they work for exemplify service excellence. This award is presented to one of those monthly winners as the Grand Award Winner.

 

Community Impact Award - This award recognizes an individual who has contributed, or continues to contribute, to the overall prosperity, economic growth, or vibrancy of our community through their business, volunteer or philanthropic endeavours, and exemplary overall service to assist others.

 

Chair's Award - The Chair's Award recognizes an outstanding organization or individual who makes an exceptional effort which goes above and beyond the call of duty in any area of business and/or community development.

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The holiday season is not only a time for festive decorations and gift-giving but also an opportunity to foster camaraderie and build connections in the workplace and at industry functions. 

 

Work-related events during this time of the year provide a unique setting for networking, as colleagues and potential clients come together to celebrate the spirit of the season. These gatherings, which can take place right into the New Year, offer more than just a break from the daily grind — they create a platform for professionals to connect on a personal level, share experiences, and build lasting relationships.

 

“You’re there to start building relationships because people prefer to do business with others they know, like and trust,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.  “It’s not about being the salesperson, because you’re not selling a product or service, it’s about selling yourself and building a relationship to the point where people want to start doing business with you.”

 

One of the key benefits of networking during holiday season workplace events is the relaxed atmosphere. This informal setting allows professionals to get to know each other beyond their job titles and responsibilities. 

 

Additionally, holiday season work events often include activities that promote team building. From festive games to group activities, these events create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. Working together in a different context can reveal new aspects of colleagues' personalities and skills, leading to a deeper understanding of each other's strengths and abilities.

 

Also, networking during holiday events provides a chance for professionals to express gratitude and appreciation. 

 

Embracing the festive spirit of the season, professionals can build meaningful relationships that extend beyond the workplace, creating a supportive and collaborative professional network that lasts throughout the year.

 

Here are some tips to make the most of business networking at this time of year:

 

Be Approachable:

If you want people to know you’re approachable, remember that body language is important so try not to cross your arms and legs, or use objects (drinks or plates of food) as potential barriers. Also, maintain positive eye contact and lean in slightly to let others know you are interested and engaged.

 

Stay Professional:

While the atmosphere may be festive, remember that you are still in a professional setting. Maintain a level of professionalism in your interactions, even in a more relaxed environment. How you greet people at these events can impact their perception of you. A warm and firm handshake, or a light touch on the arm or shoulder can create an instant bond. 

 

Prepare An Elevator Pitch:

Be ready to succinctly describe your business or professional background. A well-crafted elevator pitch can make a lasting impression during brief encounters.

 

Dress for Success:

Wear appropriate attire. Always remember this is a business event. Festive and stylish is great, but flashy or too revealing can be unprofessional.

 

Limit Your Smartphone Use:

If you can, leave your smartphone at home, or try to keep it out of sight. Constantly checking emails and texts while talking with fellow partygoers can send the wrong message.

 

Update Your Business Cards:

Ensure your business cards are up-to-date and bring plenty with you. The festive season can be a great time to exchange contact information.

 

Express Gratitude:

Send personalized holiday cards or emails to your professional contacts, expressing gratitude for the collaboration and partnership throughout the year. It's a thoughtful way to strengthen relationships.

 

Set Realistic Goals:

Set specific, achievable networking goals for each event. Whether it's connecting with a certain number of people or initiating conversations with key individuals, having a plan can make your networking efforts more focused.

 

Join Online Networking Events:

If in-person events are limited, consider participating in virtual networking events. Many organizations and platforms offer online gatherings where you can connect with professionals from the comfort of your home or office.

 

Utilize Social Media:

Share holiday greetings and updates on your professional social media profiles. Engage with your network online by commenting on their posts or sharing relevant content.

 

Follow Up:

After the event, follow up with new contacts promptly. Send a personalized message expressing your pleasure in meeting them and suggesting ways to stay in touch.

 

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Navigating the intricacies of entrepreneurship and professional growth in the business world can be a daunting journey filled with challenges, uncertainties, and a constant need for adaptability. 

 

In this ever-evolving business environment, the mentor-mentee relationship can be a powerful and crucial catalyst for success and personal development, which is why our Chamber Circles program has been created. 

 

The program – one for women and another for entrepreneurs - offers business leaders a platform to not only expand their network but explore potential partnerships with peers as they advance their own growth both professionally and personally. 

 

The Chamber has enlisted a group of talented business mentors for each ‘Circle’ which consists of between four and five people who will discuss pre-selected topics once a month.

 

“Chamber Circles is a great way for business leaders to not only tap into our mentors’ knowledge and professional connections but can lead to networking opportunities with their peers as well as give participants the chance to cultivate their own skills and strengths,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The monthly sessions will provide these business leaders with some added tools they need to enhance their businesses.”

 

He says the Chamber Circles for Women stream was created after the Chamber was approached by some female members requesting an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other women business leaders like themselves. The second stream, Chamber Circles for Entrepreneurs, is available to all business leaders.

 

“Having both streams provide a large cross-section of the business community the chance to thrive and succeed,” says Greg.

 

The program touches on a variety of topics, including bringing creativity into your work role, finding new ways to manage yourself and others, how to give and receive effective feedback, as well as a look at resiliency and the importance to continuously evolve. 

 

“These are topics we feel are very relevant to operating a business in today’s economic climate and will give these leaders an even better foundation,” says Greg.

 

Click here to learn more about joining Chamber Circles

 

A few reasons why joining Chamber Circles can assist your business:

Guidance Through Experience

By sharing their experiences, mentors provide invaluable insights that can help mentees avoid pitfalls and make informed decisions. 

 

Accelerated Learning Curve

Instead of relying solely on trial and error, mentees can leverage the wisdom of their mentors to gain a deeper understanding of industry intricacies, best practices, and strategies for success. 

 

Building a Network

Building a robust network is an invaluable asset, often leading to collaborations, partnerships, and a broader spectrum of career opportunities.

 

Confidence and Emotional Support

Having a mentor provides a reliable source of emotional support and encouragement. This emotional support fosters confidence, helping mentees navigate uncertainties with a positive mindset.

 

Encouraging Innovation

Mentors not only guide mentees within existing frameworks but also encourage innovative thinking. This dynamic approach to problem-solving is essential in an era where innovation is often the key differentiator between success and stagnation.

 

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It’s no secret small and medium-sized businesses play a crucial role in our community’s economic landscape, but they continue to face many challenges that impact their growth and competitiveness.

 

Knowledge is key when it comes to finding business solutions which is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has organized its inaugural Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive to provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from local experts on a variety of topics relevant to operating their businesses.

 

“Business changes every single day, and we need to always stay focused ensuring we are working on our business and not just working in our business,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “And working on your business can mean participating in programming that helps you uncover new techniques in management, inspiring your employees and leadership training.”

 

The Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive will focus on a variety of areas over the course of several hours at Tapestry Hall. The discussions will centre around:

 

  • Creating an immersive customer experience;
  • Mental health practices for the modern entrepreneur;
  • Streamlining your business with new technologies;
  • Communication across cultures;
  • Exploring the future of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence;
  • Intrapreneurship.

 

The summit speakers are leaders in both the business and post-secondary sectors who will share with participants some of their vast and practical expertise on these topics.

 

Among them is John Stix, co-founder of Cambridge-based Fibernetics, who will lead the session on intrapreneurship and Jay Krishnan, CEO of The Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, who will outline how AI is revolutionizing business. As well, mental health advocate and meditation practitioner and serial entrepreneur Iman Grewal will also provide her expertise.

 

“We hope by hosting this summit we can provide entrepreneurs of SMEs with the tools they need to help them better navigate what may be some very choppy waters in our economy over the next few months,” says Greg.

 

The Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive takes place from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at Tapestry Hall.

 

Click here to learn more about this informative learning event.

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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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A little over 50 years ago, the communities of Galt, Preston and Hespeler were, as the saying goes, three peas in a pod. Tremendous sports rivals to the very core of community pride.

 

Sorry, for those living in Hespeler and Galt, but I was a Preston kid. I grew up playing pool at Rusty’s, bought penny candy at Gravelle’s Variety, went swimming at ‘Eddie’s Pool (Ed Newland Pool), and sat on the wall by the Dairy Queen with a Dilly Bar.

 

But behind the scenes of this young man’s life, there was some interesting politics playing out. William Davis was the Premier of Ontario at the time and Darcy McKeough was his Minister of Municipal Affairs. I guess for some unknown reason, to me at least, they figured that we’d be better off together than apart and as of January 1st, 1973, the Premier declared, “thou shalt be conjoined into one harmonious community.”

 

Well, frankly, at that point in my life I was more interested in who was meeting at Rusty’s after school rather than what anyone at Queen’s Park was doing for, or with, my hometown of Preston. I can vaguely recall the community vote during the 1972 municipal election on what this ‘new city’ should be called, and it was narrowed to Cambridge or Blair. In the end, 11,728 residents voted in favour of the name Cambridge compared to 9,888 – most of those residing in Galt - who selected Blair. While the name Blair is not offensive in any way, it is hard for me to wrap my head around what might have been had the vote gone the other way.

 

We all know the end of that tale: Cambridge we shall be, and we shall be united, we shall be one. Sounds good in theory, but perhaps that ‘experiment’ didn’t exactly work out the way it was planned. My children, all born ‘post amalgamation’, still refer to the former municipal names, for the most part.

 

However, isn’t that what community is all about? When someone asks us today where we live, we identify, again for the most part, with the “old” community names.
Today, I live in West Galt. OK, so maybe the experiment wasn’t all bad, after all, my wife (a Galt girl), got me to move from Preston to Galt, and that was a good start. But let’s not underscore the collective challenges we all had in adapting, and ultimately embracing our new name and our new community.

 

The Chamber, however, had a much easier time adapting to this new reality and kind of bought into the whole concept in the early stage of amalgamation when the Galt Chamber, Preston Chamber and Hespeler Village Association merged to become the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

 

Looking back, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during those meetings, but I was too busy sitting on the wall by the Dairy Queen catcalling the hot rods driving down King Street. I know now, however, that there was likely some kicking and screaming but with the universal understanding that bringing business together was going to build a better community with opportunities for everyone.

 

The Chamber throughout the last 50 years has been the mainstay for community development and creating opportunities, filling gaps, and moving the agenda of positivity. It has also been here when the community was in need. Take the Grand River flood in 1974 as an example.

 

Although we are blessed to have two of Canada’s Heritage Rivers (Grand and Speed) running through our community, they can create issues - not just traffic trouble if one of the bridges is closed - that overshadow their beauty.

 

This was the case when the Grand River overflowed its banks on that fateful May 17th hitting downtown Galt very hard. You may have read or heard the official stories about the inadequacies of the emergency response departments that unforgettable day. But did you know that before the water arrived the Chamber President, the late Don Faichney, called the Grand River Conservation Authority to ask if there was an issue after hearing there was a dam incident at Conestogo?

 

The GRCA confirmed to him that they had let officials know. But hours later, as the river began to rise, Faichney called the City and of course the newly minted Regional Municipality of Waterloo, about what steps they were taking to alert businesses in the downtown core. Realizing not enough was being done, he then worked as hard as possible to get the message out himself by calling businesses - remember, there was no email or social media back then. In his Royal Commission Inquiry into the Grand River Flood 1974 report, Judge W.W. Leach credited the Chamber with providing an early response of warning that likely saved some loss.

 

Fortunately, all of that led to the GRCA getting funding to put up those infamous walls in downtown Galt in hopes of mitigating any future flooding, which also led to creating opportunities for revival. In hindsight, maybe we should have insisted on easy river access and raising of the water slightly so we could utilize the river in downtown for paddle boat rentals, or even freezing it to create a Rideau Canal-like experience in the winter. By the way, the GRCA is still a willing partner for that to happen one day, but I’m not sure the Grand River will freeze anymore thanks to climate change. Still, it might be worth exploring.

 

The Chamber of Commerce has also championed the industrial subdivisions and was instrumental in two very important community assets: higher education and professional live theatre. It was the Chamber who brought together the team – known as the ‘Cambridge Consortium’ - that eventually would get the University of Waterloo School of Architecture opened here AND, more formally, out of a tourism committee meeting came the call to establish a live professional theatre in Cambridge which led to the Hamilton Family Theatre which we now hail as a ‘community jewel’.

 

The Chamber has always taken the approach of fostering the building of our community by not saying no, but by saying yes and how do we get it done.

 

Again, putting political reasoning aside, back in 1973 our communities needed to band together since aging infrastructure was becoming an issue - especially in Hespeler – and getting new infrastructure was, and remains, a very costly ordeal. Preston, to its credit, had amazing infrastructure at that time and was in great shape and perhaps could have opted out. However, its leaders recognized that some work was needed to ensure its preservation and supported the move.


We know that preservation is always important, just look at the Gaslight District. Frankly, there would have been a time when those historic structures along Grand Avenue South simply would have been torn down but thanks to new investment, those revived old buildings have been adapted to last well into the next century.

 

Now, let’s be clear, I am not a big fan of forced amalgamations. Frankly, I think those moves are officially political in nature. However, I am a fan of working together for the betterment of all.

 

Today, many of us remember the dividing lines of those three former communities, but in time those too will disappear in the memory of its residents as change brings bigger, better, and bolder ideas to build a strong, vibrant, and genuinely prosperous community. In many respects, I believe we are the envy of our neighbours to the north which many think want to consume us since we are the only community in the region that fully straddles both rivers and Highway 401, North America’s busiest roadway. I think if we were to analyze the entire circumstance of Cambridge’s amalgamation we would probably agree, in the end, it was good for us. It certainly would have been better if we had all been on the same page at the time, but we’re only 50 years old and that’s a “young’un” in terms of community years. The best part is we’re still young, enthusiastic, looking forward, and optimistic on what kind of a community we can have. We aren’t done building this community yet, so any further craziness of amalgamation talks is off the table from my perspective.

 

What we have now is a community poised to explode, and you might not like that, but worry not, anyone reading this is unlikely to be here when that happens and the leaders of the day will care about what they are doing, just like the leaders of the past did.

 

They will care about being progressive in community development but also in building a city that is safe, healthy, and abundantly filled with opportunities. Let’s celebrate our 50th anniversary in style with recognizing we’ve come a long way in the first 50, so let us reach for the top in the next 50. After all, it’s all about the making of a community.

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce handed out the hardware recently recognizing the achievements of the local business community.

 

The awards were presented in front of a sold-out crowd of approximately 360 business leaders and Cambridge/Township of North Dumfries officials at Tapestry Hall on Thursday, May 18.

 

“This event is such an important one for the Chamber because it gives us the opportunity to honour some of the amazing work our local business leaders have accomplished in the last year,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the contributions and achievements of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000, and features 11 award categories, nine of whom require nominations. In total, nearly 70 nominations were received.

 

Among these awards are Outstanding Workplace, Business of the Year, and New Business Venture of the Year which is aimed at both new and existing businesses.

 

“The awards event itself at Tapestry Hall also provides the perfect setting for business leaders to connect and reconnect, which only strengthens our community,” says Greg.

 

 

2023 BUSINESS EXCELLENCE AWARDS recipients

 

 

Business of the Year 1-10 employees award winner: Sousa Bookkeeping & Taxes

 

Being a good corporate citizen is anything but a chore for this award recipient, and in fact, quite the opposite holds true. When it comes to giving back to not only the community, but also its employees by creating a safe zone for everyone and rewarding them with nights on the town and bonuses, this company revels in the opportunity to help others and is always happy to show its appreciation for the support it has received. From donating to local food banks and Cambridge Memorial Hospital, to providing free and reduced rate tax services to low-income individuals and seniors – even offering free pickup and drop-off services - this company firmly believes community should always matter first.

 

Business of the Year 11-49 employees award winner: Central Industrial Solutions

 

The recipient of this award has developed a very diverse and loyal customer base thanks to its long-time commitment for providing the best service possible. This includes sometimes offering clients the least expensive option available because its highly motivated staff recognizes that it may be the best choice. This honest approach has built a foundation of trust among this company’s customers, many who have been loyal patrons for 20 years. Service remains a key priority for this company, which unlike many of its competitors, provides its clients with custom designs and a guarantee that their project will not fail to meet their expectations. Their commitment to loyalty also extends to their staff, whom they provide competitive wages and benefits, plus team-building perks to create a friendly and productive workplace environment.

 

 

Business of the Year 50 employees & over award winner: Gaslight Events Company Inc.

 

Big, bold, and innovative are just a few words that best describe the recipient of this award. During a time of great uncertainty, this company has continually experienced massive growth by sticking to its goal of being the best at what it does. It’s ability to adapt and grow, while staying true to its mission of creating a unique events space that celebrates and blends the local arts and the community, have remained paramount. In a short time, this company has quickly established itself as an important part of the community, which is especially apparent when crowds gather in Tapestry Hall under the breathtaking living piece of architecture known as ‘Meander’, or dine together in its new Foundry Tavern Restaurant, or share a pint in its Tap Room. While supporting local remains key for this female-owned company, supporting its growing staff is just as important which is why its female-led executive team has taken great strides to create an exclusive and supportive workspace.

 

 

Outstanding Workplace – Employer of the Year Award: Pur Balance Massage & Facial Spa

 

When it comes to creating a welcoming and supportive workplace, this company goes that extra mile to ensure its employees are presented with every opportunity available to succeed and flourish. Besides offering healthy compensation and bonus packages to reflect the current economic times, this organization continually seeks to support staff by fostering autonomy, providing flexible work schedules, interest-free loans, and additional training. This is a company that wants its staff to succeed both financially and intellectually and offers an array of supports and opportunities to make that happen. It’s a female-driven company that is committed to not only building and retaining a diverse workforce through mentorship, but by promoting a healthy and positive workplace through team-building events. Whether it’s enjoying each other’s company during a night out on the town or sharing clothing their children have outgrown with co-workers who have younger kids, the staff at this company know they are part of a very close-knit family who are more than willing to lend a hand to assist a colleague when needed. Besides building a foundation of camaraderie, this has also created a work environment where achievements and successes are celebrated among team members.

 

 

Marketing Excellence Award: Downtown Cambridge BIA

 

Using a very focused approach helped this award recipient attain some amazing goals in the past year. Thanks to some very captivating short-form video features that played well on Instagram Reels, filled with stunning visuals and narratives, this organization successfully promoted downtown businesses, events, openings, and campaigns to a much broader audience. Balancing this success by using other digital platforms, including Facebook and its website, as well as traditional media releases, allowed this company to experience substantial reach to bolster its message that downtown Cambridge is a very vibrant destination filled with attractions, among them a new outdoor gallery called The Galtway. In 2022 alone, this organization produced 55 Instagram Reels videos that garnered over 353,000 views, plus another 28,000 views on Facebook. This strategy, which resulted in a more than 30% increase in Instagram followers – many of them women – helped further their goal to shine a spotlight on all the great things that our downtown businesses have to offer.

 

 

Spirit of Cambridge award winner: Fibernetics Corporation

 

Helping to create an even better community is very important to the recipient of this award.

Through its unwavering support of several local initiatives, this company is creating a solid foundation for the next generation of residents to succeed and prosper, while at the same time demonstrating extraordinary community leadership. Among its ongoing commitments is a successful partnership with Food4Kids, a program that is near and dear to the hearts of its employees. In the past year alone, it donated just over $12,000 to this organization to assist in its efforts to provide students in more than 20 Cambridge schools with nutritious snacks – driving home the point that no child should go to school hungry. This past December, this company even matched its employees’ fundraising efforts dollar to dollar and donated more than $4,300 to the cause. It also supports a secondary initiative created by one of its own employees called Coffee4Kids to further benefit Food4Kids. Also, as well as sponsoring youth sports teams, this company also provides two days of paid volunteer leave to ensure its employees have ample chance to give back to their community, which makes it clear the spirit of giving is a priority to this organization.

 

 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Eric Johnson of Vitality Village Osteopathy and Wellness

 

A commitment to overall health and wellbeing, and community, are driving forces that continue to lead the recipient of this award to great success. An opportunity to volunteer with a falls prevention and stroke rehab program as an undergrad at university started this recipient on the path to entrepreneurship which later would result in Eric opening his own successful business in downtown Hespeler. Utilizing business in relation to his many skills – including founding his own landscaping business which he maintained until August of 2022 - has been a passion and has led him to achieve great success in a short time. According to many of his loyal clients, he is constantly trying to do better for his community and is proud his business gives people the opportunity to connect and find commonalities in hobbies, health, and goals. He and the team of health experts he has assembled under one roof provides the perfect setting for his clients to foster those connections.

 

 

New Venture of the Year award winner: Java Jax Good Roast Coffee Inc.

 

The recipient of this award is a great example of what a small business owner can achieve through passion and good old-fashioned hard work. After navigating through the litany of startup requirements so many new businesses face, not to mention undertaking a major construction project during a pandemic, this new business managed to bring its plan to fruition in a relatively short time. Creating a bright and comfortable setting – perfect for private dining or a quiet place to do some work – has helped this family-run business achieve steady success since opening its door in the fall of 2022. In that time, it has become a ‘go-to’ spot for many loyal customers by ensuring service remains its No. 1 priority and has done this by making a point of getting to know their clients not just by name, but by also by remembering their favourite dishes and drinks, and by adjusting its menu to reflect their requests and dietary needs. The growing number of its glowing Google reviews and Instagram followers are clear indicators the owners are on the right path as they continue to hone and enhance their business model, which featured special drink offers that were included in the ‘welcome baskets’ presented to new residents of the neighbouring condos in the Gaslight District – reaching more than 800 residents.

 

(Two recipients tied for the following award)

 

WoW Cambridge award winner: Homewood Suites by Hilton Cambridge/Waterloo

 

Providing good old-fashioned hospitality, not to mention a haven for people in need, made this local company stand out in 2022. Welcoming dozens of families that arrived in Waterloo Region as Government Sponsored Refugees, the employees of this organization left a lasting impression on a group of people looking for a new start, including many displaced by the war in the Ukraine, by treating them with kindness and respect. In turn, this has prompted many of these refugees to make Cambridge their permanent home. The employees accomplished this great feat by leading with their hearts and not any unconscious biases. It wasn’t always an easy task, especially when faced with outright racism against new Canadians from a small but vocal minority of people who took it upon themselves to criticize their efforts.  But they didn’t let this negativity deter them from helping others, so much so, their ramped-up service efforts went on to garner them a globally recognized travel award from Trip Advisor.

 

 

WoW Cambridge award winner: Jeff and Angie of Sun Variety

 

The continued kindness shown by the recipients of this award has made a lasting impression on many of the customers who visited their variety store. But it was one good deed that stood out and didn’t go unnoticed in the community that set them apart. It involved a long-time customer who was having mobility issues. Realizing he was having an issue, out of general concern, the recipients of this award took it upon themselves to purchase him a four-pronged cane which immediately improved the quality of his life and enabled him to return to their store.

 

 

Chair’s Award: Graham Mathew Chartered Professional Accountants

 

The recipient of this award has continued to be a valuable community partner to countless organizations since it first went into business more than 50 years ago. This is a company that values the importance of creating an economically strong, healthy, and vibrant community, and knows that giving back is key to make that happen. They always walk the talk which is why they are the true definition of a good corporate citizen. Among their many achievements is ongoing support to the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation and since 1995 have donated approximately $130,000 to this worthy cause, as well as sponsoring CMH events to ensure we have the best equipped hospital possible. In fact, they played a pivotal role in the WeCareCMH Campaign in 2017, which raised more than $10 million towards the purchase of vital equipment. But their support doesn’t just include the community’s physical health but extends to its cultural health also which is why this company has been a been a big financial supporter of Drayton Entertainment since the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge first opened its doors in 2013.

As well, this award recipient also continues to do its best to ensure our community’s most vulnerable are not forgotten and is an ongoing champion of the Cambridge Shelter Corporation in its work to help those in need, not only sponsoring the region-wide Hockey Helps the Homeless fundraiser but by providing this organization with expert accounting assistance.

However, these are just a handful of the organizations and causes this company quietly supports behind the scenes. Others include, to name just a few, the Cambridge Food Bank, United Way Waterloo Region Communities, Porchlight Counselling & Addiction Services, Food4Kids, and YMCA Three Rivers. This award is all about going above and beyond, which is something this company does nearly daily and for that, as a community, we couldn’t be more thankful.

 

 

Community Impact Award: Terry Kratz of HFK MacRae & Wilson LLP

 

Community and prosperity are two words that clearly mean a great deal to the recipient of this prestigious award. Born and raised in Waterloo Region, Terry Kratz has seamlessly blended his knack for numbers with his passion for volunteering by continually assisting various initiatives and organizations that help make our community an even better place to work, live and play. Throughout his very successful accounting career, which has included a partnership for more than a decade at Ernst & Young, our award recipient has always been willing to step up to assist organizations and causes in need.

The quiet, steadfast, and realistic approach he uses in his professional career has been a huge benefit to the many groups who are fortunate to have him in their corner. From his past involvement with the Grand River Film Festival, Cambridge Community Foundation, and Cambridge Library & Gallery, to his current work with the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, his commitment to ensuring these organizations and others like them flourish has never wavered.  So, it’s no surprise he is often the first person to step up to lend a hand. He also remains driven to ensure our community succeeds economically. In the 1990s he played a pivotal role in the creation of the city’s much talked about strategic plan called ‘Our Common Future’, as well Chaired the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. In fact, his relationship with the Chamber has continued as Board Treasurer for the last 20 years allowing him to work very closely with its key officials in their efforts to assist our city’s business community grow and prosper. Also, his love of exploring new lands has made him an integral part of making our Travel Program a success, leading dozens of adventure seekers to exotic locations worldwide. He is a true community champion who never stops making an impact.

 

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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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