Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 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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You never know who will come up with the next ‘big idea’ that could change the world.

 

This has happened more than once in Waterloo Region, already dubbed ‘The Creative Capital of Canada’ thanks to HIP Developments President Scott Higgins and demonstrated by the local creation of such world-changing technological achievements as the BlackBerry and IMAX.

 

“This kind of creativity is the wheelhouse of the Chamber of Commerce,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We always look down the road a generation or two because they are not only our community’s future leaders but our job creators for the rest of the 21st century.”

 

In hopes of nurturing that next generation of innovative thinkers, the Cambridge Chamber has teamed up with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the BEP (Business Education Partnership) of Waterloo Region in a new innovative program called the ‘Youth Creativity Fund’.

 

Through this program, students in grades 5 to 12 can apply for seed funding to create a solution to a problem that faces them, their family and friends, or the whole world.

 

They can apply for $500 - $1,000 to help solve this issue and are required to report back to organizers in three months to tell them what they have learned from the experience.

 

“The great thing about this program is that it doesn’t matter if ideas are successful or not, we are focused on learning and simply trying ideas out,” says April Albano, Program Manager- Youth Innovation, who is leading the program through the BEP Waterloo Region (WR). “We want to build up creative confidence in youth from a young age. If students are given the opportunity to try out their ideas, they will be more confident to try out ideas later in their life. We have learned through research that creativity is something that we get worse at as we grow older unless we practice it.  We want to capture and nourish as much creativity as we can and help it grow in Waterloo Region.”

 

To help students bring their ideas to life, she says a toolkit (available at youthcreativityfund.ca) has been developed containing resources to get their creative juices flowing and generate creative thinking outside the box.

 

“We know youth have incredible ideas, but sometimes it takes some work to bring those ideas to life or even to mind,” she says, adding there is an opportunity to seek advice on specific aspects of their project.  “For example, we have had some students ask for assistance with coding an app they are working on.  Another group asked for help with grassroots marketing.  The BEP WR prides itself on connecting the business world with education and we have an extensive network of local champions who want to help.  If a student identifies a need, we will work with that student to find the appropriate support.”

 

BEP WR has given assets to local schools to promote the program and students are urged to listen for school announcements and check their school’s newsletter in the New Year.

 

“As we spread the word about this fund, we are aiming to be top of mind for every educator who has a student approach them with an idea to better their community,” says April. “We want these educators to say, ‘That’s a great idea, apply to the Youth Creativity Fund to make that idea a reality’.”

 

Also, students who may have multiple ideas are asked to submit one application at a time. However, she says they are allowed to apply again in the future if they want to further develop their initial idea.

 

“We want our kids to know that perseverance, dedication, commitment, passion, vision and yes, dreaming, are the key ingredients for creativity, innovation, and change,” says Greg, adding the Chamber is proud to be part of such a worthwhile initiative. “But we need everyone’s help. Both Chambers have foundation dollars that must flow to youth programs which has enabled us to help get this program off the ground. HIP Developments has pledged to match every single donation to a maximum of $100,000, so this just shows their commitment to our future leaders and innovators.”

 

April says this a great program to support youth, especially since many are entering the workforce when the world is facing numerous challenges.

 

“By investing in youth today we are helping to build up their creative confidence, so they feel empowered and ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow,” she says.

 

Visit the Youth Creativity Fund to learn more.

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The weather may be colder, but things are heating up fast when it comes to the winter tourism season in Waterloo Region.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Visit Explore Waterloo Region to learn more.

 

A few things to check out:

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

 

*  With files from the Toronto Star    

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The word ‘diversity’ has become commonplace in most workplaces.

 

But according to a local expert in the field, the definition of that concept may be difficult and even confusing to pin down.

 

“Diversity is like the big buzz word right now and it’s a big topic that’s on everyone’s mindset,” says Dr. Nada Basir, Assistant Professor at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business at Waterloo University. “Companies are putting money into it because we all know that it’s important. But business leaders, when they think about diversity, tend to think of it on the surface level.”

 

As a result, she says the deep level of diversity, not just the observable points relating to gender, race, and nationality, often get overlooked.

 

“While we understand diversity is about differences, we sometimes narrowly focus on one type, and I think that’s where there is confusion and that’s where we need to think a little bit more outside the box.”

 

Dr. Basir will delve into this subject even deeper at our Women Leadership Collective Series event entitled: ‘Collaboration Between Men and Women to Empower Each Other, Inspire Each Other, and Lead Together’. During this in-person event Oct. 21 at Langdon Hall, she will explore what kind of diversity matters when it comes to producing benefits in the workplace.

 

“But I don’t want to make a case as to why diversity is important because we already know it’s important,” she says, noting introducing diversity in the workplace is not just about hiring or collaborating with diverse people. “It’s about the context that diversity is in and how do we make sure the teams or companies we are building are harnessing that diversity. What does it mean to have people come to the table and feel engaged and welcomed, and how do we tap into their identity-related knowledge?”

 

Dr. Basir says many companies may have a 50/50 split between male and female employees and feel they are doing well when it comes to promoting diversity, but this is not always the case.

 

“Who is making the decisions in that company? Who are in the leadership roles?” she says, explaining research surrounding motherhood show that women tend to leave the workforce more than men because they may not feel supported enough when it comes to such things as childcare or fertility issues. “We can have a diverse workplace but if the environment does not cater to it and leverage it, then what’s the point?”

 

When it comes to creating a diverse and collaborative workforce in a post-COVID-19 environment, Dr. Basir says companies have learned about the importance of being more agile.

 

“The world is complex and complicated, and things change very quickly in business since customers and stakeholders are involved in everything that’s happened and we have to keep them engaged, and it can be really costly if we don’t pay to attention to diversity,” she says.

 

Dr. Basir says relying on different perspectives and lived experiences can help the decision-making process at any company and hopes to convey that to participants at the Oct. 21 event.

 

“I hope it’s a workshop of reflection in terms of what people thought diversity was and why it’s important and maybe when they leave, they’ll have a different perspective on what diversity should look like,” she says, referring to the research she will also introduce to build a business case for diversity. “I want to talk about what do we know about diversity in terms of ROI (Return on Investment).”

 

To find out more, visit our Events Calendar.

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As travel levels continue to ramp up towards even higher volumes than they were before the world shutdown due to COVID-19, the Region of Waterloo International Airport is ready to handle any surge.

 

“We’re probably in the top-10 of busiest airports in the country as far as movements but we’re also in the top-20 when it comes the number of passengers,” says Chris Wood, General Manager of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, noting he expects the airport will soon see that passenger ranking move up to the 12th to 13th busiest spot.

 

Chris says the airport is expected to welcome at least 500,000 passengers in 2022, which is slightly less than its initial projection due in big part to the arrival of the Omicron variant but expects to see that number double next year.

 

“We should be able to hit those numbers, with everything being equal,” he says, adding the opening of its new 12,000 square-foot domestic arrivals building in April – part of its $35 million Airport Terminal Expansion Project – is a continued sign of the airport’s importance to the economic vitality of the Region.

 

“Every thriving community has a big, bustling airport. Why should we be any different?” says Chris. “You can’t go to a world-class city anywhere without an airport being part of that.”

 

Currently, WestJet and Flair Airlines are providing a bevy of flights from the airport to a variety of destinations including Calgary and Edmonton, AB, Cancun, Mexico, Winnipeg, MB, and Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. In fact, this summer Flair has unveiled several additional destinations including Charlottetown, P.E.I., Deer Lake, N.L. and Montreal, QC, starting in July.

 

“We do expect Sunwing to return in the winter,” says Chris. “We also have an agreement with Pivot Airlines and expect them to arrive later this fall, but we don’t have a firm date yet.”

 

He says Pivot will offer several flights daily to Ottawa and Montreal, providing a key component in building the airport’s business clientele.

 

“We’ve kind of morphed into a low-cost carrier dream airport because we have a very large and affluent population that has been starved of non-stop service for many years, and we also have a very affluent business community,” says Chris. “But we haven’t really catered as much to the business community.”

 

He’s very candid when it comes to the struggles the airport has had trying to attract more business flyers, noting that smaller business owners and entrepreneurs are more cognizant of their finances so utilizing a low-cost carrier makes sense to them.

 

“But if you’re not paying for your own ticket, it’s more difficult to get people to use the services that are currently here,” says Chris, adding frequent flights a day out of Pearson Airport offered by larger carriers like Air Canada are more convenient for many business travellers.

 

Currently, he says at least 80% of travel at the Region of Waterloo International Airport is leisured based adding the split between business and leisure travel was about 50/50 when American Airlines offered nonstop flights to Chicago from 2011 to 2016.

 

“We saw a lot of people going to Chicago and beyond for business. But if the right type of service comes in, I think the business community would definitely use it,” says Chris, adding Pivot Airlines will be a great draw and caters to the business community thanks to its multiple flights daily to various business locations.

 

When it comes to attracting airlines, he says the process is extremely difficult since airlines must be very strategic where they place their inventory.

 

“The airlines get it. They know there is an opportunity here, but they also know there is more of an opportunity at Pearson,” says Chris, adding carriers like Flair that are destination-based and not interested in connections or using a hub and spoke model, can be easier to attract.

 

“But we’re happy to talk to any airline about service and we’ve got the facility now that can handle them,” he says, crediting Waterloo Regional Council for its continued support. “We can ultimately contribute to the bottom line of the Region.”

 

Chris says the ‘gold standard’ for a regionally operated airport in Canada are Kelowna and Abbotsford, B.C., and that Regional of Waterloo International Airport is quickly approaching those levels.

 

“It’s a model we hope to achieve and we’re getting closer,” he says.

 

To learn more, visit Region of Waterloo International Airport.

 

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The forecast is looking good for the summer tourism season in Waterloo Region.

 

After two years of uncertainties, restrictions and pivoting due to the pandemic, the hospitality and tourism sector is poised for a significant comeback.

 

“Everything is coming back this summer,” says Michele Saran, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region. “There is so much pent-up demand, and it seems like the concerns about COVID-19 are receding and people are feeling a lot more confident to get out and about.”

 

Compared to last year at this time, she says tourism operators in Waterloo Region, including hotels and attractions, have already seen a higher demand in the first quarter of this year.

 

“It’s going incredibly well so far, but there are still labour shortages and supply chain issues,” says Michele. “I know some of our hotels can’t run at full capacity just yet because of these shortages which is a shame because we’ve been hit so hard the last couple of years.”

 

To offset some costs surrounding the implementation of health and safety protocols to keep patrons and employees safe, Explore Waterloo Region and RTO 4 (Regional Tourism Organization 4 Inc.) distributed nearly $600,000 to support 125 attractions, hotels, and other operators in 2020 and 2021 through the Tourism Adaption and Recovery Program (TARP).

 

“Our industry was the first hit, hardest hit and the last to recover is what we say, and we still have those impediments in a way with these labour concerns,” says Michele.

 

She says this summer Explore Waterloo Region is taking a ‘divide and conquer’ approach when it comes its marketing tactics.

 

“As we are easing out of COVID-19 we’re looking to our local operators and BIAs to market our region to local residents,” says Michele. “We as Explore Waterloo Region are expanding a little further out with our marketing focus and trying to encourage people from the GTA to get out of the city and come to a place where it might be a little less urban, but with all the amenities of the big city; close to nature where they can get out and enjoy walking and bike trails and still have incredible culinary and cultural experiences, just with a little less of the crowds.”

 

Michele says the many festivals and attractions Waterloo Region has to offer this summer will be a big draw, such as the Cambridge Scottish Festival and the Canada Day celebrations which features a parade and returns to Riverside Park with fireworks.

 

“People are feeling a bit safer in being groups but still outside,” she says, noting this should be a good summer for domestic tourism due to long lineups at major airports which has been blamed on staff shortages and COVID-19 screening.  “There is still a little bit of concern about travelling internationally so I think this is the summer we really have to take advantage of the opportunity to get people in and around Waterloo Region to come and experience everything we have to offer.”

 

For a detailed look at what’s available, visit Explore Waterloo Region.

 

A few summer highlights in Cambridge:

  • Kin Carnival (May 26)
  • Cambridge Tour De Grand (June 12)
  • Cambridge Celebration of the Arts (June 17 – Civic Square)
  • Host Springs Music Festival (June 25 – Central Park)
  • Cambridge Celebrates Canada Day (July 1 - Riverside Park)
  • Thursday Night Live Performances (July 7, 14, 21 and 28 - Mill Race Park Amphitheatre)
  • Hespeler Village Music Festival (July 9 – Forbes Park)
  • Cambridge Scottish Festival (July 15-16 – Churchill Park)
  • Forbes Park Movie Night (Aug. 18 – Forbes Park)

 

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As pandemic restrictions continue to lift in Ontario, the urge to get away is growing stronger.

 

To encourage Ontarians to explore their own ‘backyards’, the Province unveiled its Staycation Tax Credit for 2022 earlier this year in hopes of inspiring residents to not only travel but provide some much-needed boost to the hospitality sector.

 

“Attractions, hotels and restaurants have been extremely hit hard these past two years and could truly appreciate any support,” says Joe Hall, General Manager of Hospitality at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre. “This initiative is a great way for families to look within the province for stay packages and get 20% back at the end of the year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The credit – which covers accommodation expenses for hotels, motels, resorts, lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages, and campgrounds – does not cover tourist attractions or restaurants.

 

However, Vanessa Stevenson, General Manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton Cambridge/Waterloo, says most hotels in Waterloo Region offer stay packages that provide spinoff to other hospitality-based businesses.

 

“If you’re going to take advantage of the credit you can always lean toward a hotel that offers these packages,” she says, referring to places that can provide theatre tickets, or restaurant deals. “So at least you’re benefitting businesses beyond just that hotel and hopefully helping the community and the tourism industry to get back on its feet.”

 

Vanessa says her industry lobbied hard for the credit and was pleased the Government of Ontario introduced its as of December 31, 2022. She says it would have been even more helpful if the tax credit could have been targeted to boost destination areas specifically outside the more obvious ones, like Toronto, Niagara Falls, Muskoka, and Ottawa.

 

“But I understand from a processing perspective it wouldn’t be feasible,” she says, noting tourist regions like ours will still benefit from tourists travelling from these popular spots.

 

The credit itself – which does not apply to business travel or leisure stays longer than a month in Ontario - can only be claimed by one member per family and of the eligible accommodation expenses, 20% (which translates into $200 per individual or double that as a family) can be claimed. As well, eligible expenses of up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you have a spouse, common-law partner or eligible children can be claimed.

 

To process any claims, detailed receipts of any eligible expenses are required. These include: the location of the accommodation; the amount of that can reasonably considered to be for the accommodation of a stay; GST/HST paid; date of stay; and name of payor.

 

Jessica Reuel, Senior Accountant with RLB Chartered Professional Accountants, says the amount of detailed information required may be the reason the tax credit was not extended to other hospitality businesses.

 

“At a hotel you receive a full listing of information and an email confirmation,” she says, adding it’s unclear if the tax credit will be extended beyond 2022. “I think it all depends on how many people will take advantage of it this year. Everybody needs a break.”

 

Vanessa agrees and says encouraging people to travel, especially in April and May, may be difficult. 

 

“It’s been very difficult to market travel within our province when we haven’t been open due to restrictions,” she says, explaining summer travel is easier for people to support since COVID-19 numbers dropped the last two summers. “I think people are aware of the tax credit but have not connected the dots in terms of the practical sense of using it.”

 

However, Joe says he’s optimistic things are starting to improve for his sector and hopes the new credit will help.

 

“Since the recent announcement in January, we have seen business starting to pick up and we are confident with the lift of the vaccine passports (March 1) we will continue to see an uprise in business getting us back to 2019 numbers,” he says, noting the struggle his sector has faced. “We are confident 2022 will be the year of rebound.”

 

Vanessa says it would be great to see the tax credit expanded to become a federal initiative, which would be a boost to the travel industry nationwide.

 

“At some point, as much as we want people to spend their money here in Ontario, the need to leave is going to be strong,” she says.

 

To learn more about the Staycation Tax Credit, visit: https://bit.ly/3uWgqzs

 

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Pain points throughout Ontario’s economy are impairing business operations, and now consumers are feeling the pinch too. 

 

The frustration is palpable. From the grocery store and trucking industry to their pocketbooks, Ontarians are experiencing the very real consequences of labour shortages, global supply chain disruptions, and inflation. 

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recently released the sixth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER) providing regional and sector-specific data on business confidence, policy priorities, and economic indicators, which together provide a unique view on the hurdles ahead. 

 

“Ontario began to see some positive momentum in 2021 thanks to progress on vaccines and reopening. Business confidence, GDP, and employment growth are trending upwards after record lows in 2020. However, the road ahead remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, and inflation are hitting home,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “A staggering 62 percent of sectors are facing labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. This is having real-life consequences on the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability.” 

 

“Our small business Members here in Waterloo Region have proven their strength and resilience over the past two years. Business confidence is rising across the province but for many the additional strain on operations as a result of new variants and additional restrictions continues to dampen their recovery,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.

 

This year’s OER reveals the impacts of the pandemic continue to disproportionately impact small businesses, organizations led by women and people with disabilities, with the hardest-hit sectors being businesses in the arts, entertainment, and agricultural sectors. 

 

“We are seeing a domino effect of structural issues. Jobs are going unfilled, demand is outpacing capacity, and these issues are driving up prices for consumers and uncertainty for businesses,” said the report’s co-author, Claudia Dessanti, Senior Manager, Policy, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Two years into the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we need a long-term plan that will provide stability and lay the groundwork for economic growth.”

 

Key highlights of the report include: 

  •  1. In terms of regional economic outlook, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie is looking at jobless rate of 4.5 percent in 2022, compared to 7.3 percent in 2021. Also, it shows an employment change of 5.4% this year compared to 3.7 percent in 2021. The population change of 1.5 percent in 2021 is expected to remain the same in 2022. Confidence in Ontario’s outlook by Region indicates 38 percent of respondents in Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie are not confident, compared to 23 percent (39 percent remained neutral). Also, 52 percent of those asked said they agreed there was a labour shortage in Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, while 29 percent said they disagreed. 
  • 2. Overall, 29 percent of Ontario businesses are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook in 2021 (compared to 21 percent the year prior), and 57 percent are confident in the outlook of their own organizations (up from 48 percent). 
  • 3. Most sectors (62 percent) are facing labour shortages and expect to continue facing them over the next year. 
  • 4. Inflation of raw material and transportation costs at the producer level is affecting consumer prices, which rose 3.5 percent and is expected to rise another 3.5 percent in 2022. Ontario’s year-over-year housing price growth was above 30 percent in December 2021.
  • 5. Small businesses are more preoccupied with cost relief measures such as business taxes and electricity rates, while larger businesses are more focused on long-term infrastructure, regulatory, and workforce development issues.
  • 6. All regions except Northeastern Ontario saw positive employment growth in 2021, though several regions have yet to offset the major job losses seen during the first year of the pandemic.

 

Read the report: https://occ.ca/oer2022/

 

The sixth annual OER offers unique insights into business perspectives across Ontario. The report is driven by data from our annual Business Confidence Survey (BCS) and economic forecasts for the year ahead. The BCS was conducted online from October 6 to November 19, 2021, attracting responses from 1,513 organizations across Ontario. The OER was made possible by our Landmark Partner, Hydro One, and Research Partners, Golfdale Consulting and Bank of Montreal. 

 

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A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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The ability for businesses to be flexible and creative is pivotal when it comes to finding ways to combat ongoing labour shortages, say local employment experts.

 

“Those who can bend will find they can sustain themselves and grow and those who will not bend, I think they’re going to find it very difficult to maintain their productivity and business size,” says Charlene Hofbauer, Executive Director of Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin. “I think growth will be a real challenge for them.”

 

Her organization promotes workforce development by working with the community to address issues surrounding labour market trends, such as the apparent disconnect between job seekers and potential employers.

 

“The longer we go through this (pandemic), the more I think we’ve entered a workers’ market,” says Charlene, noting many local employers are struggling to find employees. “There isn’t an industry right now that isn’t hiring.”

 

Although the unemployment rate recently dropped in Waterloo Region to 5.2%, she says there exists a ‘small pool’ of talent for jobs that are very specialized. And as of Dec. 3, just over 5,400 jobs remained vacant in our region, approximately 1,500 of those in Cambridge.

 

“That’s a lot of jobs,” says Charlene, noting poaching employees becomes an issue for those seeking specific talent.

 

She says there is a big need for frontline employees in industries that often rely on short term trained workers – including restaurants, manufacturers, healthcare, and construction.

 

“But our tech and engineering firms are desperate for more senior talent,” says Charlene, adding those with seven years or more of experience are in high demand right now. “They can easily find a junior person, but they can’t find a senior person.”

 

When it comes to finding talent, she recommends employers look at other avenues, rather than the more traditional ways they’ve relied on in the past.

 

“Even temp agencies are struggling to have a decent size pool of talent right now,” says Charlene, adding her organization can connect employers with potential sources that can aide in their search. “We can connect you to whoever we can think of that’s local to you and can work to connect you to a bigger network.”

 

Among these connections is Employment Services - YMCA of Three Rivers Waterloo Region, which can introduce employers to talent by utilizing mentorships, job shadowing and financial incentives providing they are willing to engage in on-the-job training.

 

“It’s critical to reduce the number of resumes that an employer will be looking at on a weekly basis,” says Van Malatches, Supervisor of Employment Services – YMCA of Three Rivers Waterloo Region, noting many companies are receiving between 25 to 200 resumes every week. “I don’t know how many employers have the patience to engage in that.”

 

He says his organization can help employers ease that burden by connecting them to viable candidates.

 

“We have a pretty good feeling of who we are referring and often have worked with that candidate from three days at the least, to three months at the most,” says Van. 

 

He believes employers who concentrate on the ‘soft skills’ and can provide training will have an easier time finding people, especially when it comes to hiring newcomers, rather than an employer who is simply looking for a ‘body’ to fill a position.

 

“Newcomers don’t want to be taken advantage of and want to have that opportunity. It’s understanding the cultural shock the newcomer may be facing, and being patient with that,” says Van, adding being authentic in their approach to acknowledging the issues a newcomer is facing will go a long way. “For a newcomer, they are so vulnerable with the experience and cultural changes they are facing. If an employer steps up for them, that’s what’s going to keep the retention and longevity.”

 

In general, Van says employers who can be more accommodating, not to the point where it’s compromising their business, will be successful at attracting and retaining employees.

 

“There is a lot of different nuances out there that have contributed to people ghosting employers because other options are coming up,” he says, adding transportation and childcare issues can play roles in the decision to changing jobs.

 

Given the opportunity, Van says he would like to see employers in various sectors work collaboratively when it comes to sharing potential talent.

 

“I would like to see those resumes pooled together somewhere where everybody could have access to them,” he says, adding the creation of a central ‘hub’ - taking confidentiality into consideration – would be beneficial to the overall job market.

 

As well, Charlene says connecting with local post-secondary institutions is another avenue employers can take when searching for talent and that even providing summer placements to high school students can also set the stage for future growth.

 

She believes a ‘multi-pillar’ approach is the best to solve our current labour shortage.

“We’ve got to do many different things,” says Charlene. “We can’t rely on any one thing as our solution.”

 

For more, visit https://www.workforceplanningboard.com or https://www.ymcacambridgekw.ca/en/index.asp

 

In terms of advice, Charlene says employers should consider the following:

 

1.  Check what you are paying. “When it comes to those key roles you’re stuck on and hire consistently for, know where you stand,” she says, adding local job boards can offer a great snapshot. “Figure out where you are on the spectrum for that job and know what ground you have to make up. And if you’re already paying well, maybe there’s something in the background you have to look at.”

 

2. Look at your job posting. “We’re seeing many job seekers who won’t apply because the posting is without any basic information,” she says. “Where is your company? What are the hours? What is the pay? What does the job look like? You would be surprised how many postings don’t answer these four basic things, so people don’t apply. I think what job seekers are looking for now from potential employers is openness, honesty and that transparency.”

 

3. Look at who is not coming through your door. “Be really honest with yourself. If you never see any women or newcomers apply, why is that? Who can you connect with so you can start seeing these applicants? There are so many local groups you can connect with.”

 

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