Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

A new year has begun and with it comes challenges ahead for businesses.

 

Even though there are signs economic conditions are improving, such as a relatively fast drop in inflation and labour market additions, many small businesses are likely to feel the pinch of rising interest rates, the threat of a looming recession, and persistent labour shortages in 2023.

 

We reached out to Noah Jensen, a partner at Racolta Jensen LLP in Cambridge, to get a sense of what businesses can expect in the coming year:

 

 

Q.  What priorities or potential pitfalls should businesses wishing to expand in 2023 keep in mind?

 

Noah: Keep acquisitions open as an option. There are quite a few business owners with established businesses who are looking to divest themselves into retirement. Lower-mid market acquisitions (say, less than $10 million in value) are starting to see more supply than there is capital for private equity/investment firms to invest, especially on smaller deals. Acquiring an established brand with a customer list and team of trained employees that have complementary customers, production process, and/or supply chain partners can help achieve more scale by eliminating redundancies in the combined business after the acquisition is complete.

 

Avoid over-committing on cash, or over-hiring of employees. In the start-up world they   call this “lengthening the runway” by containing overhead costs. Labour is a fixed cost in the short-term and a variable cost in the long-term, be selective on who is being hired for what as many customers in the business-to-business landscape are being more thoughtful about purchases and many things are being delayed.

 

 

Q. How should businesses prepare for potential economic slowdowns this coming year?

 

Noah: Evaluate pricing. Costs have risen substantially in the past two years and there are still some businesses that have not adjusted their prices to their customers. If you have not changed pricing because your competitors have not changed theirs, you may have an issue with productivity to look at. If the market price has gone up and you have not changed your price, look at a price increase as an option. If your customers are unable to accept a price increase, look at the profitability of the relationship and consider not serving the client any longer.

 

Be clear on terms of payment with customers and suppliers to think through forecasting your cash flow over the next several months. Look into how this can be done with your accountant and/or bankers to see about a back-stop financing facility if needed. It is generally better to ask for financing facilities when your company is showing good financial results. You will not regret doing so now before things get too grim.

 

Think through your cost structure for any commitments to experiment with new products or services for your business that you thought would improve the productivity of your business. Are they all working? Is there anything that could be cut?

 

If you are in the business-to-business market, talk to your customers. What trends are they seeing from your competitors that they like or don’t like? How could you provide a better solution for them?

 

Do you have any redundant assets on your balance sheet? This would be assets that have no value to the operations of your company that have monetary value.

 

 

Q. Will this be a good year for businesses to make productivity investments?

 

Noah: Productivity investments will need to continuously be considered in today’s economic climate. Whether you are in dairy production or robotics, your competitors are purchasing equipment and/or software that is allowing them to get work done with less labour (a necessity in today’s labour market).

 

 

Q. How important is it for businesses to ensure they have a solid succession plan in place?

 

Noah: It is important to always consider the contingency plan of your business. If you are young with the intention of running your business for the long-term, failing to plan for what happens if you are suddenly disabled or facing terminal illness will put you and your family in a precarious position if any of those events transpire and you are unable to run the company. Certain insurance products mitigate the financial impact of this, but you still need to consider what shape your company will be in if you are eventually able to return to work.

 

If you are older and considering retirement, you should be thinking about this five-10 years out. Some considerations:

  1. Customer concentration: try to avoid having a lot of revenue tied to one customer relationship
  2. Supplier concentration: try to avoid having a lot of your inputs concentrated with one supplier.
  3. Management aptitude: always be grooming someone else (or a couple of internal candidates) to do your job.
  4. Cash flow: the valuation of the company is often determined on a multiple of cash flow. If you are selling at five times multiple, a $1 increase in cash flow increases your value by $5. So, make sure you are dialed in on profitability.
  5. Structuring: the structure of corporations will make a difference in the taxation of the sale, and you should be thinking of this a couple of years prior to sale.

 

Q.  What should business owners consider if they are planning an acquisition in the coming year?

 

Noah: Be aware of market trends. With uncertainty in the system related to financing costs (interest rate driven) and risk tolerance of people investing in private companies, there will be ebbs and flows in the low-mid-market mergers and acquisitions environment.

 

According to a recent poll, 2022 Q4 had a pull-back in interest on the buy-side of acquisitions which could indicate that the bargaining power could tilt in the favour of buyers rather than sellers. We have seen a lot of interest in our existing clients wanting to sell. Mainly related to age/retirement.

 

Be aware of the quality of earnings that are presented. While many people had an amazing fiscal 2022, if you broke it down by quarters, they were increasing prices to their customers faster than they were adjusting their costs for labour. Additionally, certain industries would have been on fire during the low-financing cost era (residential/industrial construction, auto sector manufacturing), that will be facing downturns in the upcoming year or two.

 

Q. Will 2023 be a good year to start a new business?

 

Noah:  Every year is a good year to start a new business if you have a good idea or good contacts in a particular field. The difficult thing about right now is that people currently employed will probably be seeing the best of the best in terms of offers for their labour time and talents due to the shortage.

 

The upside to starting a business right now is that a lot of people throw in the towel when there is the amount of uncertainty as there is right now with the changing economic landscape. This creates new opportunities for people.

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 The municipal election this past fall resulted in some new and familiar faces around local council tables, each prepared to represent the needs of their constituents and communities to the best of their ability during their next four years in office.

 

In the winter edition of our Insight magazine, to be released this month, we reached out to the municipal leaders for the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries, along with Cambridge’s two regional councillors, to get a sense of what issues and concerns they believe are facing the business community and to provide potential solutions to make things even better to conduct business locally.

 

Each were asked the same series of questions in hopes of providing our business community with a snapshot of what approaches our municipal leaders will be taking over the next four years.

 

Here’s a portion of their responses to a few of the questions:

 

1. How do we make Cambridge/Township of North Dumfries even better places to do business?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Connecting equity to transit-oriented development can mitigate traffic and pollution, generate demand for transit, catalyze the development of affordable housing, and bring new businesses and quality jobs to our community.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Council needs to support development because more people will generate more business and needs to consult our businesses as to their needs to ensure we will be providing the services that will assist them.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “Our tax base is an issue, and we must see that it’s set in a reasonable manner for businesses, especially since we have moved into more higher-tech manufacturing than we’ve previously seen in Cambridge in the first 30 years.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “We have to look at the processes we have in place and really look at having a collaborative approach between the levels of government, the community and business community.”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “For Cambridge to be perceived as an attractive place to do business, our downtowns must be seen as safe, comfortable, and truly fun, public places.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “Having the appropriate infrastructure in place such as safe roads, well planned parking, and other supports and services for employees and customers, will make it as easy as possible for companies to focus on the running of their business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “I would like to see improved road networks to get large this truck traffic out of our downtown areas and major roads such as Hespeler Road and King Street.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “It’s important that we increase density in our cores to support businesses and large-scale infrastructural projects such as the LRT.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “We need to constantly review and improve customer service levels at City Hall. We need to always strive to provide timely service and assistance when needed.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “We must link quality of life attributes of the community and countryside with the business opportunities of the area and continue with the current program underway to facilitate the installation of fibre to the address across North Dumfries.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “We need to market North Dumfries as the rural escape for city residents to the north and east of us.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “We can make North Dumfries a better place to do business by being more engaging with prospective businesses.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “I love being part of a rural community and think there are incredible business opportunities here for any aspiring entrepreneur.”

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “By encouraging and supporting businesses to set up in North Dumfries it will be a win/win for both the residents and business, as they will both support each other.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Rapid transit options must proceed, safety in our downtowns must be safeguarded and everything from recreational facilities to health services must continue to be improved.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “To attract business to Cambridge we need to make it attractive to their employees. They want good schools, safe neighbourhoods, recreation facilities and arts and culture.”

 

 

2. What do you think are the biggest concerns facing businesses in Cambridge/North Dumfries and how will you address them?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Labour shortage is a North American problem. We have universities, colleges and training facilities close by which graduate high quality staffing for companies. I will continue to work with them to encourage the growth of these educational facilities.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Our core areas struggle with the homeless, addicted and those with mental health issues. Our council needs to provide more services to address the needs of these vulnerable people.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “The tax base is clearly an issue for businesses and the cost of city services, such as snow plowing, are also an issue.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “Having things ready to move as quickly as possible is paramount, because when a business is ready to do something, they’re ready to go and can’t be waiting, especially in this economy. Is there a way we can fast track and expedite things?”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “Business owners do not feel like their voices are being heard by municipal leaders. It is important that we give local businesses a voice at City Hall.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “The cost of doing business goes up every year.  One way that municipalities can help with this is by streamlining the processes around opening a new business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “We need to lobby the provincial government for long-term detox and rehab facilities while also reconsidering the services offered downtown to prevent our core from becoming the dangerous playground for untreated addiction that it has become.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “We all need to work to ensure that we have a skilled workforce, that conditions are ripe for quickly and efficiently importing supplies and materials as well as exporting our products to market.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “Affordability or lack thereof are big concerns for businesses. I want to minimize future tax increases by reviewing the budget to find greater efficiencies and to find new funding models that rely less on property taxes.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “Concerns include the cost attributed to the purchase of land for employment purposes, the timelines and cost for “approvals” to bring a development proposal forward to the marketplace, plus the ability to attract and retain employees for new or growing businesses and access transit to facilitate this. Council in June 2022 adopted a position to streamline the review and approvals process associated with site plan approvals. This measure should witness a reduction in the timelines to secure a decision.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “The three biggest concerns facing businesses in North Dumfries are labour shortages, poor quality internet, and lack of commercially zoned properties. The Township needs to partner with the private sector and bring high-speed internet to our business parks.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “Biggest concerns are having the available land, and proper internet.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “As more people move into the area, there’s greater pressure on our rural and natural areas because of the increased housing needs.

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “Planning for future parking and dealing with current parking issues by working with the community residents and businesses to get their feedback, I will assist in making it easier for businesses to be accessed by listening to the people who are in the area regularly.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Safety in our community on the streets, in our parks and in our downtowns must be improved to have a safe, liveable community.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “One of the biggest challenges to business is attracting and retaining staff. To help with this we need to build more housing including affordable housing to house staff.”

 

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Quiet quitting, thanks to viral posts on social media, has become a term very familiar in workplaces worldwide.

 

It describes the phenomenon of employees who no longer go above and beyond by doing only what is expected in effort to maintain jobs that may no longer interest or inspire them.

 

This disengagement from work has grown exponentially since the pandemic. In fact, the 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work.

 

“We’ve come through such a crisis over the last couple of years. To some extent, I think we’re over it now, but it has forced people to make different decisions about work, especially if they were burnt out already,” says Frank Newman, CEO of Newman Human Resources Consulting, who will explore quiet quitting at a Cambridge Chamber of Commerce webinar Dec. 1 entitled Is Your Team Quietly Quitting?

 

He will not only touch on some of the top reasons why employees quietly quit as well as the warning signs but provide insight on how employers can alter their work environment so they can not only attract but, more importantly, retain employees.

 

“You want to make sure you create the best work environment as possible,” says Frank, acknowledging the existence of an “employees’ market” due to labour shortages.  “That really means taking a very critical look at your work environment. Do you know what people need? Is it benefits? Is it better management? This is the ideal time to do an employee survey or workplace assessment to provide you with some sort of tool you can use to get a fix in terms of what are you going to fix first.”

 

He says this process may not prove to be a comfortable experience for some workplaces, however, insists this information can go a long way in assisting an organization set benchmarks regarding branding, image or even compensation.

 

“There are so many changes happening right now and if you don’t understand where you’re going or where you’re at, it’s pretty hard to make any progress,” says Frank.

 

He also recommends employers conduct exit interviews, formally or informally, to get a sense of why an employee has decided to leave.

 

“Make sure you understand what people are feeling. Also, spend some time with your newest employees and ask them what attracted them to your organization.”

 

Frank says in the age of social media, it’s important to encourage people who leave to remain an ambassador for the organization adding that bad reviews tend to get more traction than good ones.

 

“Organizations need to think about that as they manage those who are quietly quitting and those who suddenly walk out the door,” he says. “I always encourage my clients to search various job boards to see what’s being said about them.”

 

Frank admits it’s a tough time to be a manager right now, noting that employees have become much more critical on how their companies are managed than they were in the past.

 

“People looking for work have so many options out there now, and if you’re a hiring manager, it’s putting more pressure on management to get work done with less resources,” he says, noting the difficulty this causes employees who are now required to pick up the slack due to staffing shortages.

 

However, Frank says he’s optimistic as the economy continues to readjust following the pandemic there will be less quiet quitting.

 

“As companies get smarter in managing their businesses and people, I think you’ll see less of that," he says.

 

Work Trends Facts:

  • Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job.
  • In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks “youth disillusionment” as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and disappointment.
  • Workforce data from organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce are looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months.

Source: World Economic Forum website

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The cumulative energy of Chambers nationwide took the spotlight at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s recent CCEC Conference and AGM in Ottawa.

 

More than 400 delegates representing Chambers from across Canada gathered Oct. 12-15 in our nation’s capital to brainstorm and attend presentations pertaining to a variety of issues to help these organizations assist businesses. These included everything from generating revenue ideas and the importance of digital transformation, to promoting advocacy and promoting staff growth to create more impact in helping to recruit Chamber Members. As well, the AGM featured several interesting panel discussions and guest speakers, among them U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen who outlined the importance of business relations between the two countries and potential hurdles, as well as John Graham, President and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

 

 

 

“The calibre of the discussion at the CCEC (Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada) and AGM is always top-notch and provides the Chamber network with new ideas that can go a long way in helping our Members succeed,” says Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who received a special nod of recognition from Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty during his opening remarks at the AGM for his work in creating the pilot rapid antigen screening kit program for businesses. To date, Mr. Beatty said the program has resulted in the distribution of more than 10 million kits to businesses nationwide.

 

During his address, Mr. Beatty touched on current labour and supply chain concerns facing communities nationwide and the importance of the Chamber network in developing growth minded policies to assist the economy to flourish.

 

“Growth doesn’t just happen spontaneously, it takes planning,” he said, noting the value and strength contained within the Chamber network to implement change. “Nationwide, Canadian Chambers are fighting for Canadian businesses.”

 

Policies helping businesses

 

This year, 61 policy resolutions were up for debate in a variety of categories including agriculture, international affairs, human resources, transportation, natural resources and environment, and finance and taxation.

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce's policy calling for the creation of a more equitable tax distribution plan to assist Canadian municipalities was among 53 approved by delegates. Our policy calls for the review of current funding mechanisms to ensure municipalities can fund their needs, including physical and social infrastructure to set the stage for economic recovery in communities, which in turn is good for local businesses. Besides carrying the lion’s share of Canada’s public infrastructure funding, municipalities have continued to face additional pressures surrounding a myriad of issues including housing, public transit, public safety, the opioid crisis, telecommunications and broadband, to name just a few.

 

“Our policy calls for all levels of government to sit down at the same table to work out a fairer tax distribution plan to meet the needs of Canadians and formulate local solutions that will help businesses succeed,” says Greg. “Having the backing of the Canadian Chamber network can go a long way to create positive results in the right direction.”

 

The approved policies now become part of the Canadian Chamber’s policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change.

 

To learn more about our advocacy and policy work, visit https://bit.ly/3ez63vZ.

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Keeping workers safe and healthy is an important component of any well-run company.

 

However, managing the protocols and requirements that surround it is often an area that creates frustration for many businesses.

 

“A lot of companies put health and safety on the backburner prior to the pandemic,” says Ray Snow, President of Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment in Cambridge, noting the costs that often surround it. “But now they realize they can’t put it on the backburner and have to address it and that’s what we’re seeing now.”

 

He says companies that had once been shut down during the pandemic are seeing a larger Ministry of Labour (MOL) presence of in the community and are paying close attention.

 

“MOL is at construction sites and knocking on company’s doors seeing if they have their policies in place and are they following health and safety rules, and nobody today can afford to have their operations shutdown again.”

 

For that reason, he recommends businesses revisit their health and safety policies and protocols to make sure they are up to date.

 

“But not everyone has that ability,” says Ray, noting larger corporations have the staff to manage health and safety compared to SMEs. “An SME may have a health and safety committee, but they may not have a designated staff person that does health and safety management on a regular basis.”

 

He suggests an outside health and safety audit, which Heartzap provides, is a viable alternative to ensure a business is meeting the correct standards and practices, possibly saving them money in the end. According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the average cost of a lost-time injury is $106,500 - $21,300 in direct costs (WSIB premiums) and $85,200 in costs to the company of the injured employee.

 

“We’re not there to point out all the faults. We’re there to help and grow with you,” says Ray. “Health and safety has always had that negative ‘cracking the whip’ connotation. It’s really more about education.”

 

Through a wide variety of virtual training courses, something Heartzap has offered for several years prior to the pandemic in a blended online and in-class format, he says companies can ensure staff working remotely can remain up to date on their training as part of any work-from-home policies.

 

“The shift is changing in the world and in Canada on how people learn. They don’t necessarily have to be in a classroom all day long,” says Ray, noting keeping current on rapidly changing health and safety guidelines has been a big concern for Heartzap clients. “As much as the government did a great job creating templates for everybody, they still required somebody to go look at them on a bi-weekly or weekly basis because it changed so much. The biggest concern now is getting people up to speed.”

 

He says the costs surrounding health and safety training have risen, just like they have for most businesses and that supply chain issues have affected the availability of products causing potential delays in delivery.

 

“I think everybody is kind of two and half years behind in health and safety in terms of training or policy work or reviewing their facilities, but everybody wants it done today,” says Ray, noting like many sectors, staffing shortages are causing delays. “We only have so many staff to get out there and get the job done.”

 

As a result, he recommends businesses don’t wait until the last minute when it comes to reviewing or updating their health and safety policies.

 

“If you want it done for the fall or winter, don’t wait for the fall and winter to come.”

 

To learn more, visit Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment.

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The past two and half years has seen virtually every industry and company re-evaluate how they conduct business.

 

Readjusting to a post-pandemic world is at the forefront in many of their plans and strategies as they look towards operating in a different world compared to the one we had at the start of 2020.

 

But despite adjusting their operations in substantial ways, many may be using the same insurance coverage they adopted prior to the pandemic, not realizing that COVID-19 could lead to new risks and exposures for them.

 

We reached out to insurance experts Amanda Scheerer at Josslin Insurance and Shelley Sutton at Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company to share their thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are properly prepared.

 

 

Q. How has the pandemic changed the approach SMEs are taking when it comes to insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: Post-pandemic inflation has had a huge impact on valuation of buildings and equipment. Before the pandemic, it was common to adjust rebuild, or replacement cost every couple of years, but with current inflation rates we recommend that business owners review the rebuild or replacement costs listed on their policies at each renewal.

 

In addition to inflation, we find rebuild time after a major loss is longer. We’re seeing a few our clients increasing their indemnity period for business interruption from 12 months to 18 months. This accommodates for the extended building periods and will allow business to survive during the rebuild and keep key people from leaving for another workplace.

 

Shelley: It really depends on the type of business. Contractors, for example, are busier than ever, selling work sometimes a year out. If they have stock, they are insuring it at replacement cost to protect themselves from the unpredictability of the market in the event of a loss.

 

SMEs have to protect their assets. Insuring to limits helps to do so and the need for business interruption coverage for insured perils should be considered and weighed out. Limits are higher due to building material increases (inflation) and shortages of both materials and labour. Overall, SMEs are being more careful about understanding the coverage they have and the premiums they are paying.

 

 

Q. Does having a portion or all of staff working remotely require businesses to consider adjustments in their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: If you have people working remotely as a business owner, you should ensure that company-owned assets like computers and other work-from-home equipment is covered under your insurance with an off-premises coverage extension. That extension was normal in certain industries even before 2020, but with so much company equipment now in people’s homes, it’s more important than ever to make sure your Business Insurance Liability policy has it now.

 

Finally, if your employees are meeting clients in their own homes, you may want to extend your liability coverage as their personal insurance will not cover them in the event a visitor is injured.

 

Shelley: With staff working from home comes more need for cyber security and cyber coverage if the storage of stock and equipment has changed you may need to update your agent or broker to ensure you are covered at other locations (office equipment, stock etc.). Companies need to insure equipment for off premises. If building(s) are unoccupied coverages could be void.  Businesses should check with their insurer.

 

 

Q. What are some new trends when it comes to insurance coverage that businesses may not be aware of?

 

Amanda: As mentioned before, many of our clients are extending the indemnity period on their business interruption coverage to account for the longer rebuild times.

 

Because of cybersecurity concerns, many businesses are now installing multi-factor authentication on any devices that connect to their systems. They are also ensuring that any personal devices their employees use for work (bring-your-own-devices) have sufficient security on them, so they don’t infect the business systems.

 

Finally, more businesses are using contractors to deliver their products and they may not be aware that they need non-owned auto coverage. If a restaurant owner employed an independent delivery driver with his own auto coverage and that driver is in an accident while working, the restaurant would also be named in the claim. Having a non-owned auto extension on the business’ commercial general liability policy with protect the owner in this situation.

 

 

Shelley: As large companies double down on their efforts to protect themselves and their clients, cyber criminals are targeting smaller businesses that do not have the resources to protect themselves. Comprehensive cyber coverage for ransomware, malware, data breaches, phishing attacks, remote desktop intrusion and more is critical for today’s business whether you are an online retailer or a contractor – protecting your own information and the information of your clients is your responsibility.

 

 

Q. What are some of the common concerns or questions you’ve been receiving from businesses regarding their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: The biggest concern we’ve been hearing from our clients is about the cost of rebuilding. It’s a good idea to ensure that the property and equipment values on your insurance are current. Many policies include a co-insurance clause, which limits the amount paid on a partial claim. If you’re building or contents are underinsured, you may be responsible for any shortfall.

 

Shelley: Saving money is high on their radar as well as having adequate limits considering rising building costs.

 

 

Q. What advice would you offer business owners when it comes to insurance coverage during the pandemic?

 

Amanda: If your people are working from home and your building is partially or totally vacant, please notify your insurance provider as this could void some coverages you may have. The same goes for any building owners who rent to tenants. Many are experiencing challenges in finding tenants, so please let your insurance provider know if you have vacant units to ensure you remain covered.

 

Shelley: We still advise clients to purchase as much liability coverage as they can afford. It is important to read your policy and understand exclusions when day-to-day operations change if you are unsure, call your broker or agent.

 

To learn more, visit Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company or Josslin Insurance.

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) welcomes the return of the Legislature and looks forward to working with Premier Ford, his new cabinet, and all parties to champion the province’s competitiveness, productivity, and growth.

 

To put its members’ concerns’ front and centre as the Legislature returns, the OCC today released its Blueprint to Bolster Ontario’s Prosperity, which provides a letter to each provincial cabinet minister outlining key policy priorities.

 

“Businesses across Waterloo Region are looking to the government to develop policies that will spur local and regional economic growth and job creation,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “The government must create the right conditions to support business stability, predictability, and confidence. There must be a balance between short-and long-term solutions to address our current and future challenges.”

 

Some key highlights in the Chamber network's Blueprint to Bolster Ontario’s Prosperity include:

  • Addressing Ontario’s labour market challenges by boosting immigration, removing barriers to labour mobility, and introducing workforce development strategies for key sectors such as construction, health care, tourism, and hospitality, and transportation.
  • Bolstering our health care system by developing a health human resources strategy, delivering on digital health, and addressing backlogs in routine vaccines, diagnostics, and cancer screenings.
  • Continuing to prioritize lowering the administrative burden on business and ensuring that regulation is streamlined and effective.
  • Planning for Ontario’s long-term energy needs to ensure businesses and residents continue to have access to reliable, clean, and affordable energy for generations to come.
  • Propelling housing affordability through increased supply and regulatory reforms to fuel the industry and help organizations attract and retain talent.
  • Advancing regional transportation connectivity and fare integration as well as broadband infrastructure projects in collaboration with the private sector.
  • Modernizing public procurement to support small businesses and equity seeking entrepreneurs to diversify the supply chain.
  • Seizing Ontario’s opportunity to lead in the global green economy by minimizing uncertainty, supporting cleantech, mobilizing clean energy solutions, and strengthening climate adaptation.

 

“The past few years have been characterized by tremendous uncertainty: a prolonged pandemic, record-high inflation, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, and geopolitical turmoil. If we want our economy and people to emerge stronger amid so much uncertainty, Ontario must focus on creating the right conditions to support competitiveness, productivity, and growth,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We are providing all Ministers with a blueprint for steps that can be taken to ensure we are bolstering Ontario’s prosperity – we look forward to continued collaboration with the Government of Ontario and all parties over the next four years.”

 

The OCC’s blueprint letters includes both policy asks where immediate action is required to support business and foundational recommendations for long-term prosperity and were informed by OCC’s diverse membership.

 

READ THE LETTERS.

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An apparent cooling down in Canada’s real estate market due to higher inflation does not mean the future isn’t bright, say local experts.

 

In its latest report released June 15, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) indicated that despite national home sales falling 8.6% on a month-over-month basis in May, the number of newly listed properties was up by 4.5%.

 

As well, while many Ontario markets saw a dip in prices from April to May, the average price of a home remains 40% higher than before the COVID-19 crisis and numbers were up in many markets in northern and southern parts of the province, and eastern areas of cottage country.

 

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average home price, according CREA, was a little over $711,000 in May, up 3.4% from the same time in 2021. However, the report notes this average is ‘heavily influenced’ by sales in the GTA and Great Vancouver markets.

 

Also, according to BDC in its June Monthly Economic Letter, the slowdown in demand and affordability issues hurting markets are counter-balanced by a growing population and many first-time buyers in the market. These buyers account for nearly half of all home buyers and the growth prospects remain high for this group.

 

 

We reached out to the Cambridge Association of Realtors to get its take on the situation, especially how it pertains to commercial real estate. Thanks to Association President Val Brooks, of Royal LePage Crown Realty Services, and her colleague, Rick Lewis, a registered Commercial Realtor with ReMax Twin City Realty Inc, for their input for this Q&A:

 

 

Q.  The rise of inflation, now at 30-year highs, has sparked a market slowdown for home buyers. Do the same factors come into play for those seeking commercial property?

 

A. Inflation has affected all ‘real estate’ markets in general. Factor in interest rates, economic conditions, government policies and of course market changes. It is true that commercial properties and their market values react to broad economic conditions.  Take gas prices as one example affecting the commercial industry on whole. Business statistical data for Canada shows that we have 1.2 million business in Canada of which 97.9% are small business owners who employ between one to 99 staff members.  Of that, 48,325 Canadian establishments exported goods with a value totaling $471.9 Billion. Gas prices are more likely a concern than the housing market slowdown. With home prices stabilizing, it might be seen as a good indicator for businesses overall as they try to keep and attract new employees.   

 

 

Q. As home prices rose as the COVID crisis began, currently standing at 40% higher than before the pandemic, was there a similar trend for those seeking commercial property?

 

A. The commercial landscape during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 did slow down as we adapted to pandemic safety concerns and policies handed down by our governments. However, the market adjusted quickly to the supply and demand by the consumers looking for homes, and subsequently, commercial properties. As real estate prices rose quickly in Toronto, so did the demand on our residential and commercial properties; commercially speaking with such keen interest in the areas of warehousing, storage facilities and transportation.  Because we offered quick access to Toronto, Hamilton, and London via our highway access, along with good lease rates and purchase power, the tri-cities were attractive to those businesses dealing with higher cost in the Toronto area. COVID-19 affected the commercial landscape with a pent-up demand and low inventory complicating your ability to satisfy our clients’ needs.    

 

 

Q. What are some of the trends – especially right here in Waterloo Region - have you and your colleagues been seeing? Does it differ compared to other places like Toronto?

 

A. With more opportunity in the single-family housing market one of the main trends was moving out of Toronto for a larger home with land within the Waterloo Region area. More bang for the dollar, which in-turn pushed our pricing upward. Our rural properties became popular with work from home employees, wanting the country living and open spaces away from the congestion of Toronto living.

 

 

Q. Where do you think the market will be a year to five years from now?

 

A. There will be a continued growth in population in our tri-cities. Focus will be shifted to new developments putting greater emphasis on a more employee driven atmosphere and amenity options. Currently, 300,000 square feet is under construction in Guelph. It will help elevate some of the interest, however, this will not be enough to satisfy the current demand, so we see this being an issue for a few years to come. Large to small businesses will be needing more industrial spaces between 2,500, 5,000 & 10,000 square feet.  We are, and have been, an area of choice that will continue to evolve over the next five years with new exciting and innovative ideas in building construction. We will see subleasing becoming more popular as businesses deal with ownership retirement.  The hope is new businesses will come to the forefront that will assume or expand on these retiring trades.  In general, commercial real estate is on a substantial uptick right now. With interest rates still low, employment at all-time high, the economy is rebounding at a fast pace, and occupancies are at an all-time high meaning low available commercial inventory. It’s hard not to remain confident that for the foreseeable future, commercial real estate is going to remain on an upward trajectory here in the tri-cities.

 

 

Q. What advice can you offer at this point to those seeking to buy/sell a home or commercial property?

 

A. Real estate has been a very stable and good investment with a long track record.  We may see a more stabilized market for a few years with home prices keeping pace with the marketplaces. Commercial real estate will have low inventory both for sale and for lease. Land will continue to be valuable with greater importance on environmental ideology and new construction and innovation will be the future of the commercial landscape. Is it time to sell or stay the course? That has always been the million-dollar question that has us all guessing on the future, however bright.

 

For information, visit the Cambridge Association of Realtors

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The collective power of the Chamber movement to assist businesses succeed was front and centre at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent AGM and Convention.

 

Approximately 150 delegates, the majority representing Chambers and Board of Trades from across the province, gathered at the Pearson Convention Centre April 28-May 1 in Brampton to network, hear from Ontario political leaders, and debate policy issues to assist them in their advocacy work with government on behalf of businesses.

 

“Ensuring businesses have the legislative backing and supports they need to succeed and prosper plays an important role for all Chambers and Boards of Trade,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who led a strategy session on delivering Chamber services across a diverse membership base and was joined at the event by in-coming Chamber Board Chair Kristen Danson. “The conference is a great place to share new ideas and connect with other Chamber leaders from around the province.”

 

This was the first in-person AGM the OCC has held since the pandemic and featured appearances by the Ontario leaders of the Liberals (Steven Del Duca), NDP (Andrea Horwath) and Green (Mike Schreiner), as well as the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board of Ontario. All four spoke about the strength and importance of the business community and what their parties can do to help our economy.

 

Also, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty was on hand to offer an update on the Chamber network from a national perspective.

 

“It’s great for the Chamber network to hear from all sides of the political spectrum,” says Greg, noting potential policy resolutions are formulated from a wide range of issues and concerns.

 

This year, 34 resolutions were up for debate on a variety of topics ranging from improving supports to employers, to the creation of a construction strategy for tiny homes.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy calling for the creation of a ‘backstop’ for the implementation of mandated workplace vaccination policies was among 32 that received approval from delegates. The approved policy calls for the Ministry of Labour to include elements within the articles of the Occupational Health & Safety Act to provide protection against discriminatory legal actions aimed at businesses that wish to implement such a policy.

 

“It’s important that businesses have the protections they need in order to operate in the manner which they feel works best for them,” says Greg.

 

The approved policies now become part of the OCC policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change with provincial and federal levels of government.

 

Besides adopting policies, the conference wrapped up with an awards ceremony to recognize the achievements of Chambers and Boards of Trades.

 

The Cambridge Chamber, in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the Chair’s Award for Innovative Program or Service to recognize the success of their rapid screening kits program which has been adopted by Chambers provincewide. Since April of 2021, the program has resulted in the distribution of more than one million kits to more than 7,500 businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

“This program has made a huge difference to thousands of businesses in our region, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” says Greg.

 

For more information about the kits, visit https://chambercheck.ca.

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While the recent unveiling of a national child-care deal should come as welcome news to many business owners facing labour issues, child-care experts say there are still some important issues that will need to be addressed pertaining to the new plan.

 

“The intention is really good, but we just have to figure out what this will look like along the way,” says Jaime Jacomen, Leader of Operational Excellence at YMCA of Three Rivers, referring to the deal which aims to have $10-a-day childcare in place by September of 2025.

 

The plan, which affects licensed child-care centres and licensed home care providers only, was solidified at the end of March when the Ontario government became the last to sign on resulting in fees reduced up to 25% to a minimum of $12 a day starting April 1. 

 

Rebates are also to be issued to parents of children aged five and under starting in May retroactively to April 1 and further reductions are on tap leading to the 2025 ‘goal’. The federal government has also invested an additional $2.9 billion for a sixth year of the agreement.

 

“I see this $10-a-day plan as a good starting point in helping working parents, but is it enough?” asks Tina Kharian, owner of Gravity Hair Design in Cambridge. “It’s hard to say as we also need to ensure enough daycare spots are available and qualified providers for all families.”

 

The deal outlines the creation of 86,000 child-care spaces (including more than 15,000 spaces already in place since 2019), representing a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit.

While she welcomes the extra spaces, Jaime admits she wonders where they will be created.

 

“It’s a bigger process,” she says, noting increasing child-care access comes along with new school builds.

 

Also, Jaime says the wage plan set out in the deal – which will see minimum-wage floors for child-care workers of $18 an hour and $20 an hour for supervisors, plus an additional $1 an hour until the floor hits $25 an hour – won’t be enough.


“Many early childhood educators are making over that already, so that’s not any additional incentive,” she says. “The government seems to be wanting to address the affordability issue and access for families. But in order to have all of that access, you need to build that early childhood education workforce.”


However, Jaime remains optimistic and says the YMCA’s provincial body has been engaged with the Province about this issue for some time.


“We do think this is something that needs to happen,” she says.


Tina agrees and says a national child-care system is vital for our economy to fully recover.


“As business owners, we should be welcoming this because having affordable, quality daycare for all families will increase labour force participation, especially in our business (hair salon) since most stylists are women,” she says.


The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 report The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario outlined a series of recommendations to offset both the immediate and longer-term challenges women face. Among these were calls for a short-term child-care strategy to weather the pandemic and longer-term reforms to improve accessibility and affordability.


“We risk turning back the clock on decades of progress if we do not take a hard look at the challenges facing women and plan for recovery with women at the table and a gender and diversity lens on strategies, programs and policies,” said Dr. Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute Founder and Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub in the report.

 

Here's what parents can expect in the coming months:

  • As of April 1, 2022, families with children five years old and younger in participating licensed childcare centres, including licensed home care, will see fees reduced up to 25 per cent to a minimum of $12 per day.
  • Rebates, retroactive to April 1, will be issued automatically starting in May. The rebate is in place to account for child-care operators that may need extra time to readjust their fees. 
  • In December 2022, fees will be reduced further to about 50% on average.

The deal outlines a plan to further slash rates in the coming years. Here's what the longer-term outlook includes:

  • In September 2024 fees will be reduced even further.
  • A final reduction in September 2025 will bring fees down to an average of $10 per day.
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