Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Economic growth imperative

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click here to see the OCC Policy Compendium.

 

 

Cambridge Chamber policies approved by Ontario delegates

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Click here to submit a nomination.

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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The collective strength of the Chamber network took centre stage as Chamber representatives nationwide gathered in Calgary recently to debate and approve policies aimed at boosting Canada’s economy.

 

Several hundred delegates were in attendance Oct. 11-14 at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s CCEC Conference and AGM to not only discuss policies but hear from several high profile political and industry leaders, including Treasury Board President Anita Anand who spoke about the economic concerns facing businesses and taxpayers, and her plans to launch a spending review to find savings.

 

“The key has to be on efficiency, process and purpose,” she said, noting the need for the government to pivot on the economic front. “There are continued lessons to be learned in terms of how we can improve. I know we have to continue to build an economy that works for everyone.”

 

Her sentiments were echoed by Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty who stressed the need for filling infrastructure gaps to meet the needs of the nation’s growing population.

 

“We require infrastructure that’s both resilient and sufficient so when increasingly frequent climate change emergencies and labour disruptions occur, we can continue to supply ourselves and our allies,” he told delegates. “Canada has a great many economic, and green growth ambitions, but only ambition matched with action results in achievement.”

 

The Canadian Chamber leader also spoke about the power of the Chamber network when it comes to lobbying the government to do what is necessary for businesses to succeed.

 

“We only accomplish so much because of our partnership with you. You, the provincial, territorial and local Chambers, and Boards of Trade, are the engines that drive responsible growth in Canada.”

 

Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher says the AGM and conference play an important role in developing policies that will benefit businesses, and in turn, create an environment for communities to prosper.

 

“These policies are valuable advocacy tools when it comes to urging both the provincial and federal levels of government to make decisions that will benefit the economy, and in turn, the places we live and work,” he says. “Having the Chamber network work as a collective group to inspire change is a very valuable asset.”

 

Cambridge Chamber policy approved

 

This year, of the 66 policy resolutions presented by Chambers and Boards of Trade nationwide, 62 were approved by 293 voting delegates on hand. The policies – which now become part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s ‘official playbook’ - touched on the following areas: natural resources, energy, and environment; transportation and infrastructure; finance and taxation; agriculture; digital economy; human resources; as well as international and indigenous affairs.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy resolution, entitled Created Systems to Provide Adequate Child-care Spaces to Ensure Parents – Particularly Women – Have Equal Opportunities to Enter the Workforce, received overwhelming support and resulting in the approval of several recommendations calling for the Government of Canada to undertake the folllowing:

 

  1. Work with provincial/territorial governments to explore all prospective ways that could increase compensation for ECE workers in effort to attract more workers into the child-care sector with the goal of reducing waitlists at licensed child-care centre, setting the stage for more parents – particularly women - to enter or re-enter the workforce.
  2. Work with provincial/territorial governments to examine all potential solutions to ensure there are systems in place, possibly financial, to ensure adequate child-care spaces are available to provide parents – particularly women – the opportunity to enter or re-enter the workforce.
  3. Recognize the critical role of private sector in delivering childcare services and advocate for a continued role for entrepreneurs and businesses to provide childcare through public debate on the subject, and through the CCC’s advocacy with federal policymakers.

 

Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored policies approved

 

Collaboration among Chambers when crafting policies that can benefit the network is key. This year, the Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored two policies submitted by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce which also received support from delegates.

 

The first resolution, entitled Review of the Canadian Tax System and Business Taxes, was approved, and called for the Government of Canada to:

 

  1. Not implement any new business taxes or increases on existing business taxation levels until a review of the current system, particularly related to competitiveness and productivity, is completed.

 

A second policy resolution, entitled Closing the National Digital Divide, was also approved, and called upon the Government of Canada to:

 

  1. Continue with broadband infrastructure investments across rural/remote areas and First Nations;
  2. To build an inclusive economy for all Canadians, ensure all financial resources allocated to increasing broadband capacity are urgently distributed for addressing the digital divide;
  3. To evaluate the effectiveness of government broadband policy in delivering connectivity, particularly in rural and indigenous areas, there should be an evaluation of connectivity coverage, quality, and adoption.
  4. Commit to businesses and citizens in rural and remote areas that necessary infrastructure to allow them access to competitive broadband speeds will be constructed.

 

Click here to see the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s full compendium of policy resolutions.

 

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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 much-anticipated introduction of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care plan and its goal to introduce its $10 a-day program by 2026 has created a higher demand for spaces as regulated child-care facilities struggle to find qualified staff, which in turn has impacted the economy as parents, many of them women, forgo entering or re-entering the workforce to stay home with their children.

 

“As the plan was introduced right at the beginning of 2023 fees have been cut in half and that has opened up the opportunity for a lot more families to access care that couldn’t, or didn’t, in the past,” says YWCA Cambridge CEO Kim Decker, noting the long wait lists it has created at the organization’s four school-based centres. “We now have parents calling us when they find out they are pregnant to see if they can get their kids on the list for child care because there just aren’t enough spaces.”

 

She says the national plan is being implemented in different ways by provinces and territories, explaining the political ‘will’ of each is dictating what level of success they will reach. In Ontario, which committed to reach $10 per day and create 86,000 new spaces by 2026 when it secured a deal last March with the Government of Canada, Kim says the plan has fallen short.

 

“It’s a status quo funding model and there’s no real opportunity for growth,” she says. “There needs to be a growth plan that accompanies this.”

 

Child-care ‘deserts’ created

 

Kim says the national plan was put in place to not only reduce fees for parents, but create spaces, particularly for those living in underserviced areas. Quoting a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Kim says 53% of younger children in the province reside in child-care ‘deserts’, adding that Kitchener-Waterloo was identified in the report as being underserviced, despite a push by the Region of Waterloo to the Province to provide more spaces.

 

“Right now, we know that from 2024 to 2026, we will only get another 200 spaces,” she says, adding other local licensed child-care providers are also experiencing space shortages.

 

Kim says the economic impacts of these shortages are being amplified as more companies continue to call employees back to the workplace, explaining that many parents had taken their children out of child care when the pandemic hit but now can no longer find them spaces.

 

“This has disproportionately impacted women because if a family has choices, I will say in most cases it will be the women who will have to make the decision to give up their careers and stay home,” she says. “It’s going to affect the economy and women need to be a big part of our economy if it is going to remain strong.”

 

Chamber submits national policy

 

In effort to alleviate the problem, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has submitted a national policy to be considered by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network at its AGM this fall in Calgary, Alta. Included among our recommendations is a call for the federal and provincial/territorial governments to work together to investigate the possibility of providing subsidization for ECE (early childhood educators) wages and the creation of a fully funded pension and benefits plan in effort to attract more workers into the child-care sector with the goal of reducing wait lists.

 

Labour shortages in terms of attraction and the retention of qualified ECEs has compounded the issue of growing wait lists. As noted in a recent response released by the YWCA Ontario Coalition to the Province regarding its CWELCC discussion paper on the child-care funding formula, the group identified the fact the plan is based on operating capacity rather than licensed capacity. YWCA Ontario’s response states many Ontario child-care operators are operating below licensed capacity due to recruitment and retention issues yet must still bear the costs of maintaining rooms and unoccupied spaces which makes it difficult to hire additional staff to fill those empty spaces.

 

YWCA dealing with staffing crisis

 

“We are in a staffing crisis right now,” says Kim, adding the local YWCA has used reserved funds to hire someone to work with its director of child-care services on recruitment and retention. “We need to be able to staff the spaces we already have.”

 

The Province has set a wage floor of $18 an hour for ECEs, with Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce recently announcing an increase of $1 a year annually up to $25.

 

“That’s not going to work,” says Kim. “It needs a whole new way of thinking and a whole new strategy, and a real commitment to paying people what they are worth.”

 

The Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario has called for a minimum of $30 an hour for ECEs and $25 an hour for non-ECE staff members. Either one or two of the workers in a child-care room are required to be an ECE, depending on the age of the children.

 

“They have the responsibility for our youngest learners and creating a foundation and baseline for them going forward. It is a really important job and for a very long time, we’ve devalued the work child-care workers provide in our community,” says Kim, adding how local child-care workers were one of the first groups to return to work a few months after the pandemic began in 2020, allowing parents to get back to work sooner. “I think the pandemic also shone a light on how the whole care economy has been underpaid for a really long period of time and child care is part of that.”

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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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Creating an economic environment to ensure businesses can succeed was the key part of the agenda at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Annual General Meeting and Convention in Niagara Falls.

 

In attendance at the recent event, hosted by the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce and Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, were 160 delegates representing nearly 80 Chambers provincewide, including Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher, and Board Chair Kristen Danson.

 

“The OCC’s AGM is an important avenue to share new ideas and connect with other Chamber leaders to find ways to ensure businesses have the legislative support they need to succeed,” he said. “The policies the Chamber network approves create a roadmap when it comes to making important legislative changes.”

 

In total, 43 policies were approved by the delegates covering a wide variety of issues that can directly affect businesses including labour, energy, education, healthcare, transportation and transit. 

 

The theme for this year’s AGM was Growing Together, which exemplifies the Chamber network’s focus on driving economic growth in the province. 

 

This year's event featured a range of keynote speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions on topics that are critical to the success of Ontario's businesses.

 

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from experts in areas such as innovation, trade, workforce development, and government relations.

 

Fireside chats were held featuring a variety of provincial political leaders, including Ontario’s Minister of Red Tape Reduction Parm Gill, who talked about the importance of creating a path for businesses to succeed. 

 

“I think we can all agree that for the province to be competitive we’ve got to make sure we are creating a business environment for businesses to come and make investments, and create well-paying jobs,” he told the delegates. “That’s what we (PC Party of Ontario) have been doing for the last five years. We’ve made tremendous progress.”

 

However, there is more room for improvement according to Ontario NDP Finance & Treasury Board Critic Catherine Fife. The Waterloo MPP, along with Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, were among those who discussed a variety of issues that needed to be addressed such as housing and healthcare.

 

“When you have a strong healthcare system that can actually draw people into the province, that social infrastructure investment is seen as a plus by companies that are thinking of coming into Ontario,” she said. “And it also serves employees well and is certainly worth fighting for.”

 

Her concerns about Ontario’s healthcare system were reiterated by Ontario Liberal Party Interim Leader John Fraser, who talked about the importance of creating a stronger workforce.

 

“We do not have enough people to care for the people who need it,” he said. “We need a skilled workforce, but enough training is not always that accessible to all people.”

 

The Hon. Perrin Beatty, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President, also identified the need to boost our innovation capacity for Canada to compete internationally.

 

“We’ve been calling on the government to focus on the fundamentals of growth. We need to build a 21st Century workforce,” he said. “It’s time for governments at all levels to treat business as partners not a problem.”

 

 

Cambridge Chamber policies approved by Ontario delegates

 

The AGM is a pivotal event for Ontario’s business community, providing an opportunity for industry leaders to come together to discuss and debate key policies that shape the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) advocacy agenda for the coming year.

The Cambridge Chamber presented three policies, all of which received overwhelming support from delegates:

 

  • The first policy is aimed at opening Ontario’s job market for employers and employees and urged the Government of Ontario to develop all potential partnerships within local municipalities and community organizations to ensure that language training is made available to new immigrants to help expediate entrance into the workforce. Also, the policy called on the Province to provide an opportunity for those on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) who want to work to do so without risk of losing their provincially funded benefits if their employer does not provide those services. And finally, the policy recommended providing employers with a form of renumeration (i.e., tax credit) when it comes to providing provincially regulated training, such as WHMIS and their associate costs.
  • The second policy was ‘reaffirmed’ by the Chamber network after first being introduced in 2019 calling for more to be done by the Province to encourage more women and girls to consider a career in the skilled trades. 
  • The Chamber also presented and co-sponsored a policy with the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce to attract and retain highly skilled talent by urging the Province to double the size of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program and to work with post-secondary institutions to reduce regulatory barriers hindering the construction of new on and off-campus housing. As well, it urged the Province to match investments in post-secondary infrastructure and increase funding for Facilities Renewal Program-elgible projects. 
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Excitement is building for Business Expo 2023.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A few facts and figures:

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