Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Portions of the provincial government’s 2024 budget and the economic impact they will have on businesses are being welcomed by the Ontario Chamber network, but a call remains for more to be done.

 

“This budget takes important steps in the right direction, and at a time when Ontario faces declining productivity, we hope it sets the stage for bigger leaps forward,” said Daniel Tisch, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in a release. “The government has been bold in attracting investments and committing to build infrastructure to create jobs – and we need similarly bold investments in our people, public institutions, and communities.”

 

Building a Better Ontario, tabled by Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy on March 26, is the Province’s largest spending budget coming in at $214.5 billion.

 

While it featured no tax hikes or tax breaks, it did include substantial funding for infrastructure and highways, something Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher says is vital to the business community.

 

He notes Minister Bethlenfalvy’s mention of the long-awaited Highway 7 project between Kitchener and Guelph, as well as improvements along the Kitchener Line to facilitate future two-way all-day GO Train service, should bode well for local businesses.

 

"This shows these projects are still a priority for this government and that’s what we have been fighting for in this region for a very long time,” he says, adding a $1.6 billion investment also announced for the new Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program to help Ontario build at least 1.5 million new homes by 2031 also comes as good news. “The cost of housing is very concerning to businesses because they can’t attract the brightest and best people to come and work here if housing costs are beyond the pay-scale they are willing to offer.”

 

Housing Crisis

 

However, Greg questions whether the financial commitment outlined in the budget will be enough towards creating a long-term solution to the housing crisis.

 

“The reason housing and rent costs are through the roof is because the supply isn’t even close to the demand. Everybody needs to understand the price of any commodity is based on supply and demand,” he says, adding the Province should amend the Planning Act to give municipalities the broader ability to accelerate the housing construction process. “I also think the Federal government needs to weigh in as well if they are truly concerned about it and reach out to municipalities to see what areas of responsibility the feds can have, perhaps on the subsidized housing side.”

 

Greg says costs surrounding new home construction, which rose during the pandemic, have also not decreased despite the fact supply chain issues have improved. “You can’t ask a builder to build a home for less than what it costs them.”

 

The budget also outlined an additional $100 million investment through the Skills Development Fund and an additional $49.5 million over three years for the Skilled Trades Strategy in hopes to address the growing skills gap in Ontario, something both Greg and the Chamber network were pleased to see.

 

“We have the country’s No. 1 skilled trades school (Conestoga College Skilled Trades Campus) right here in Waterloo Region, so this announcement is very important,” he says. “What is even more important is that Cambridge has such a density of advanced manufacturing and each one of those facilities need skilled tradespeople to work. Investment in skilled trades is certainly paramount for us and it should be paramount for the province and the entire country.”

 

And while the Chamber network applauds the Province’s $546 million investment in healthcare access, Greg admits he’s disappointed the budget contains only an overall 1.3% hike for health care.

 

“I really believe this government is working hard behind the scenes to try and figure out where the money will be best spent because with a system like health care, which is the biggest piece of the puzzle here in Ontario, you can’t just keep dumping in money. You have to rationalize where we’re putting it,” he says. “Our healthcare system is a rationalized system where we get what we need, not what we want. So, let’s make sure we get the money directed in the right places to ensure our health needs are taken care of.”

 

Click here to read the budget.

 

 

Several positive measures in the budget to help the business community:

 

  • Housing through an investment of $1.6B for the new Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program and an additional $625M towards the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund to build roads, water and infrastructure needed to enable Ontario to reach its goal of building at least 1.5 million new homes by 2031.
  • Workforce development by continuing to address skills gaps in critical sectors of the economy through an additional $100M investment through the Skills Development Fund, and an additional $49.5M over three years for the Skilled Trades Strategy, supporting programs that reduce stigma and attract younger Ontarians into skilled trades.
  • Healthcare access through a $546M investment expected to connect 600,000 underserved Ontarians with access to primary healthcare teams of doctors, nurses and professionals, and the opening of a new medical school at York University to improve the pipeline of family doctors.
  • Mental health, addictions, and homelessness through an additional $152M over three years towards supportive housing, $396M in mental health supports through mobile health units, and $60M to Indigenous mental health.

 

As the government enters the second half of its mandate, the OCC urges action to support:

 

  • Business competitiveness by improving access to private capital and credit for small businesses, developing an employee ownership policy framework, and supporting greater business adoption of co-operative conversion.
  • Interprovincial trade by signing mutual recognition agreements and/or unilaterally recognizing standards in other parts of the country, where appropriate, to promote trade and labour mobility.
  • Post-secondary institutions through aggressive investment to create a financially sustainable and globally competitive post-secondary education and research sector, aspiring to have the best-funded system in Canada.
  • Energy infrastructure by investing in generation, transmission, and distribution to support expanded charging infrastructure and address expected electricity shortfalls.
  • Climate resilience through a climate adaptation and mitigation plan, with strategies that value nature and ecosystem services, and support the federal Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation.

 

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Advocating for public policies that can benefit businesses has been a cornerstone feature of the Chamber of Commerce movement for generations.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Some of the key areas targeted by delegates included:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

2023 BUSINESS EXCELLENCE AWARDS recipients

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Marketing Excellence Award: Downtown Cambridge BIA

 

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

 

 

Spirit of Cambridge award winner: Fibernetics Corporation

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

(Two recipients tied for the following award)

 

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

 

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

 

 

WoW Cambridge award winner: Jeff and Angie of Sun Variety

 

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

 

 

Chair’s Award: Graham Mathew Chartered Professional Accountants

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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The issues and possibilities facing Cambridge will be the focus when City Manager David Calder and Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher sit down for a one-on-one discussion at our ‘Good Morning Cambridge’ Breakfast on Nov. 1 at the Galt Country Club.

 

To get a small sense of what participants can expect, we reached out to Mr. Calder to ask a few questions. (To register for this in-person event, visit https://bit.ly/3D2omlh.)

 

 

Q. What are some of the challenges the City of Cambridge will be facing in the next several few years?

 

A.  The City of Cambridge is expected to grow by 70,000 people by the year 2050.  With more people living in the community, we will also see a growth in local business as well as a need to expand the facilities and services that we currently offer.  With growth comes the challenge of how to accommodate. 

The old solution of growing outward isn’t sustainable, and creates a need for public input into the current policies for denser communities.  Although people understand and support development, it becomes more challenging when developments are closer to home.  This creates a balancing of the needs of neighbourhoods with the needs of the community, both those currently living here and those that will be calling Cambridge home in the future.

 

 

Q.  How has the pandemic changed the way many cities, such as Cambridge, operate?

 

A. The focus of our City staff during the pandemic was to continue to deliver programs and services in a variety of ways that met the needs of our community all while ensuring safety for everyone. In the process, staff have found more efficient, open, transparent and accountable ways to deliver many of our services. As we transition back to in-person and the “new normal” staff are applying their pandemic learnings to offer more options for the public to access us.

 

 

Q.  What is one key lesson the City of Cambridge learned from the pandemic?

 

A. The experience of delivering services during the pandemic taught us how committed City staff are to serving the public in innovative ways. From offering services remotely, transitioning to hybrid and returning to in-person situations, staff rose to each occasion with renewed enthusiasm.

 

 

Q.  Should Cambridge residents be hopeful for what lies ahead for this community?

 

A.  Cambridge will be celebrating its 50th in 2023 and we have a lot to be proud of as a community. We’ve seen tremendous growth and development across Cambridge and a commitment to improving our distinct cores in a way that creates places and spaces for people to gather. The City has committed close to $150 million to three large recreational projects which will come to fruition in the next few years.  A Parks Master Plan as well as an Arts & Culture Master plan are also underway along with an Older Adult Strategy.

These plans will help us to map our recreational and creative activities in a way that the future community can enjoy.  Next year, a Recreational Master plan is scheduled to begin reviewing what other Recreational activities would be needed to help accommodate the anticipated growth and change in our community.

Our Transportation Master Plan has many recommendations as to how best to move people from place to place, including better linked multi-use trails and making public transit more attractive. This will help us to prepare for the growth in population and ensure they have choice in how they move around the city.

 

 

Q. What is the best part of your work for the City of Cambridge?

 

A. The people. The past few years have been challenging for everyone. I am extremely proud of what we were able to achieve through our foundational commitment to excellence in customer service, while tapping into what makes Cambridge unique. This commitment and openness to new opportunities has not only encouraged growth in our community but also created opportunities for future prosperity.

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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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The race is on to determine who will represent Cambridge residents for the next term at City Hall.

 

Although the municipal election will be held Oct. 24, advanced voting begins Oct. 6 providing many of those seeking a seat on City Council a limited amount of time to garner support in their quest to make a difference in how our community remains a great place to live and do business.

 

“I think every level of government is important to business,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “There are federal, provincial, and municipal regulations that mitigate the growth of business and business owners need to pay very close attention to every level of government and participate by voting or campaigning, or supporting, or whatever they need to do to stabilize their business within the confines of Canadian democracy.”

 

 

In Cambridge, three new councillors will be seated at the table with the potential for several others if the incumbents fail to retain their positions. But whether the prospect of massive change around the council table is enough to sway more residents to vote remains uncertain since traditionally, municipal elections garner a lower voter turnout than provincial or federal races. In the last municipal race in 2018, voter turnout in Cambridge was 32.4% compared to the provincial average of 38.30%. Compare this to the recent provincial election which experienced a voter turnout of about 43.5%, one of the lowest in decades.

 

“Media tend to focus on national or provincial elections, and of course those are organized by political parties who are able to mobilize an enormous amount of activity and intention because they can spend a great deal of money and voters can easily identify who the political operatives are,” explains Dr. Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies – Department of Political Science at York University. “When you look at it from the point of view from the voters, the challenge they face is that it’s very difficult to get informed about what’s really at stake. For voters to work out what each individual (municipal) candidate represents without a party label is somewhat challenging.”

 

As well, Dr. Pilon is candid when he talks about the legislative controls at the municipal level, noting even their ability to determine land uses can be circumvented by developers through the Ontario Municipal Board process.

 

“When we look at how the founders of our country and current federal and provincial politicians look at local government, they deliberately made it the weakest level of government,” he says. “It has very little independent power and has almost no fundraising capacity and is completely controlled by the provincial governments.”

 

Despite that, Greg notes the fact municipal governments are responsible for many elements –waste collection, police, fire service, roads, water and sewer, snow removal – that provide business owners with the ability to operate their businesses.

 

“They make the community safe and habitable, so the people you need to run your business want to live in your community,” he says. “I think businesses should encourage their employees to get out and vote because local government is the one level of government that truly affects their everyday lives.”

 

But inspiring people to vote in a municipal election can be difficult.

 

“It’s not that people don’t care and are not passionate,” says Dr. Pilon. “But often it takes a huge issue to catalyze the public and give them a focus for their concerns.”

 

For example, he says the proposed construction of the controversial Spadina Expressway in Toronto in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and more recently the amalgamation plans outlined in former Ontario premier Mike Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in 1995 mobilized an enormous amount of people.

 

“You have to have a big issue that’s going to affect the majority of people, and thankfully, we don’t have those big issues,” says Greg, adding even the approval of the LRT didn’t garner as much concern as expected. “When there are those neighbourhood issues, they generally don’t drive people to the polls.”

 

Dr. Pilon agrees and notes that even the current housing and homelessness issues facing most communities is likely not enough to inspire more people to vote.

 

“Historically, when we look over the 20th century, the market has had an uneven ability to respond to housing needs again and again. It’s not a new problem and not one that municipalities have the finances to deal with so there you’ve got this mismatch,” he says, adding it’s a difficult issue for local candidates to succeed with at the ballot box. “There will be no accountability on the issue because there’s very little that municipalities can do.”

 

Dr. Pilon says ‘dramatic events’ that rise above the ‘noise’ are needed to mobilize voters at the local level, which is difficult due in part to media cutbacks.

 

“A lot of local newspapers have taken a hit over the past decade, so people aren’t receiving as much local council coverage and that makes it difficult for them to find out what’s going on,” he says.

 

To encourage more voter participation, Dr. Pilon recommends several potential changes including allowing the formation of ‘slate’ parties in Ontario, similar in nature to what is allowed Vancouver, B.C., as well as reforming campaign finance laws to prevent developers from having too much ‘pull’.

 

“Another reform that would make a big difference is stop reducing the size of councils,” he says, referring to Premier Doug Ford’s reduction of wards in Toronto. “What kind of impact is that going to have on representation?”

 

In terms of representation, Greg says a party system is not the answer at the municipal level.

 

“People are there representing their neighbourhoods and community, their friends and family and the businesses they shop in,” he says, adding a party system doesn’t lend itself to this type of scenario and that leaving their own political ‘baggage at the door’ is key for a successful council candidate.

 

“You’re not looking for someone with a platform of ideas as much as someone who has leadership and communication skills and can deliver on the interest of the neighbourhood. You want an individual who is compassionate and understanding and can also communicate well to upper levels of government to make sure that the community’s broader needs that may relate to provincial or federal issues are understood and addressed as best they possibly can.”

 

To learn more about the 2022 Municipal Election, visit the City of Cambridge.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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