Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

Small business keeps the Canadian economy healthy, but the continued effects of COVID-19 have left many SMEs on life support at a time when we need them the most.

 

“Never has there been a time that is more important to shop locally and spend locally, and support your friends, family and your community by buying from a local small business,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Despite a strong local economy thanks to a number of larger industrial businesses and manufacturers, he says at least 70% of our local workforce is employed by SMEs.

 

“They employee most of the people who live in the community,” says Durocher. “So, it’s vital for us to make sure we do whatever we can to help small business.”

 

He is hopeful the federal government’s revamped COVID-19 relief programs which aim to steer $2.2 billion into the pockets of commercial tenants and the extension of the wage subsidy that should cover 65% of eligible costs for business owners through December, will provide some assistance.

 

“The problem is that the big gears in government turn very slowly,” he says, adding processes that normally could take months or even years are being put in place in a matter of days. “That bucks against the system and it makes it difficult for government to do that because they like to analyze everything before they send it out the door.”

 

Durocher says the original and much criticized CECRA (Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program) is as an example of an initiative that needed serious fine tuning.

 

“They rushed stuff out putting in legislation, which to some degree protected the government, and then found no one qualifies for it because of those protections,” he says. According to a CBC report, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CIFB) estimates that 47% of small business tenants who needed help with rent couldn’t access the $3 billion budget set back in April, and that as of early October approximately $1.8 billion of that budget had been spent.

 

“We’re (Chamber network) cautiously optimistic at this point the new commercial rent assistance program is going to be better and appeal to more small businesses, or include more small businesses in the equation,” says Durocher, adding the Chamber network has been encouraging Canada’s Minister of Small Business Mary Ng and the finance ministry to roll it out soon so they can review the regulations.

“They’re (federal government) trying to make key changes necessary to make the program more responsive to small business owners, so I think they’re trying to move it along fairly quickly.”

 

He expects the new program will appeal to more small business owners because it will take the onus off the landlords, many of whom were also facing heavy financial burdens under CECRA, and will feature a ‘sliding scale’ that will give businesses who’ve seen a 70% drop in revenues up to 65% of rent coverage.

 

Besides rent relief, Durocher says the extension of a revamped wage subsidy program until June 2021 is also a positive move since our economy is facing some ‘sluggish’ months ahead.

 

“The wage subsidy is going to be very important moving forward, however, the criteria around the new program is that it’s variable so depending on what your revenue has dropped by will determine the amount of subsidy you’ll receive,” he says. “The new program really takes into account those businesses that have reopened and are getting more of their revenue back.”

 

As well, Durocher says the revamped CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) program, which will now provide interest-free loans of up to $20,000, on top of the original $40,000, can also provide much-needed relief for small business owners.

“I think it’s a really important part of the puzzle,” he says. “It’s not that a small business needs, wants, or should accumulate debt, but these are extraordinary circumstances. The important thing will be how do you find a path to ensure ‘my business’ comes out of this pandemic.”

 

Unlike larger businesses, Durocher says SMEs do not have the luxury of being controlled by the global status of the economy.

 

“They can only survive, or fail, based on the local economy,” he says. “What we all know is that we’re sick and tired of the pandemic, but the virus isn’t tired of making us sick.”

 

Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs – (StatsCan and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce)

  • 68% saw revenue decrease by 10% or more
  • 22% unable to stay fully or partially open during the pandemic
  • 25% can’t stay open more than three months
  • 1.2 million SMEs in Canada (426,490 in Ontario) as of December 2017
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More than 60 per cent of Canada’s restaurants risk having to close their doors permanently by November, according to government data.

 

The Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), produced by Statistics Canada with support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, found that 29% of accommodation and food service businesses cannot operate at all with social distancing measures in effect. A further 31% will only be able to remain operational for up to 90 days with distancing measures in effect. In other words, up to 60% of the industry could fail within three months.

 

 

These figures are even more troubling when you consider the jobs already lost. When COVID hit, 83% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industries temporarily closed and two-thirds were forced to lay off some staff, including almost a quarter that were forced to lay off all their staff.  According to Restaurants Canada, the food service industry lost 800,000 jobs.

 

While the economy is now slowly beginning to recover, to date the federal government has not offered help tailored to the needs of the hardest hit industries like food services, which will take a long time to recover. That’s why, with the support of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and 15 food service businesses, representing more than 60 brands, has launched the ‘Our Restaurants’ campaign.

 

“Local restaurants are vital to our economy and play an integral role in making Cambridge such a great community,” said Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “They need our support now more than ever.”

 

Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Hon. Perrin Beatty agrees.

 

“We need to act now. Across Canada, our restaurants are where we meet for business or pleasure, where we got our first job and where our families spend a night out. Simply put, our restaurants are cornerstones in our communities,” he said. “The ‘Our Restaurants’ campaign underscores the urgent need for Canadians – both the public and our governments – to come together to support these businesses in their time of need.”

 

The campaign puts a spotlight on the current situation faced by Canada’s restaurants amidst COVID-19: high costs, fewer customers, and government programs ill-equipped for the unique, long-term challenges faced by the industry.

 

Our Restaurants is a campaign led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and supported by:

  • Arterra Wines Canada
  • Benny & Co.
  • Boston Pizza
  • CWB Franchise Finance
  • Firkin Group of Pubs
  • Foodtastic
  • Gordon Food Service
  • Molson Coors Beverage Company
  • Northland Restaurant Group
  • Paramount Fine Foods
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Restaurants Canada
  • Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp)
  • St. Louis Bar and Grill Restaurants
  • Sysco Canada

Together these companies represent more than 60 of the best-known restaurant brands across Canada and the whole of the food services industry.

 

“We can all make a difference. Canadians need to observe safety measures while also starting to resume our normal lives, including being able to go out for a meal. Everyone also needs to remind their elected representatives of the importance of our restaurants in our lives,” concluded Beatty.

 

The campaign is national, bilingual, includes paid advertising, and the launch of the website OurRestaurants.ca.

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A new idea has surfaced for a Cambridge bottled water provider to help it combat the effects of COVID-19.

 

Mineva – Water Refined, which has provided water treatment systems in Cambridge since 2011 centred on the process of electrolysis to remove bacteria and viruses, has received its DIN (Drug Identification Number) from Health Canada to manufacture a powerful disinfectant.

 

This new product, which the company is calling ‘Power Play’, is ideal for businesses, schools, and clubs.

 

“We started doing testing and making products back in March,” says Water Refined President Bryan Box, noting the idea first surfaced shortly after the lockdown. At that time, in accordance with safety protocols, his technicians were restricted from entering homes and businesses, which includes dairy farms, to install or service the firm’s patented water technology. 

 

However, he says some employees were kept busy thanks to the company’s work as operators for the wastewater plant of a local manufacturing facility.

 

“That kept some revenue coming in,” says Bryan.

 

But things changed a couple of weeks into the COVID-19 crisis when he began fielding phone calls and requests from clients asking if their water systems could be ‘tweaked’ to create disinfectant.

 

“I had two home users and a dentist all within 10 hours call and ask if they could take their electrolysis system and add salt to it and make disinfectant,” says Bryan, explaining this formula leads to the creation of hypochlorous acid, a very safe substance that white blood cells manufacture to fight infections.

 

“It’s a very powerful disinfectant but very safe,” he says.

 

These requests, including one from a competitor asking if they could use the company’s water bottling line in St. Catharines, prompted Bryan and his team to begin looking into Health Canada regulations to see  how they could pivot their operation to start manufacturing disinfectant.

 

“We joked that we started going down the rabbit hole,” he says.

 

As they investigated this possibility, his company also began sourcing another disinfectant called ‘Neutralyze’ from a B.C. company that does similar work to get the ball rolling locally.

 

Bryan says they enlisted the help of a consultant to help navigate the Health Canada system, which can be daunting, to obtain a DIN.

 

“You don’t know if it’s going to take two months, four months or even eight months,” he says.

 

The proper approvals were obtained, and Bryan says his new product has already been used at the Cambridge Sports Park, The Zone Training in Waterloo and Guelph, Cambridge Kips Gymnastics Club, several dance studios and dental offices.

 

As a father with children who are active in the local sports community, he says having a locally produced product will make it less costly for many organizations.

 

“The prices out there are just astronomical,” says Bryan, referring to the cost of other products available on the market.

 

He says his company has also been in contact with local school boards letting them know about these products as schools prepare to welcome students back.

 

“There might be a mad dash when schools realize there’s not a lot of supply around and everybody’s scrambling,” says Bryan, adding his company is also toying with the idea of providing the necessary prepackaged ingredients to let customers use their own water systems to create the disinfectant. It’s a plan that would also require Health Canada approval.

 

“But that could be another 12 to 18 months do this,” he says, adding he has learned a great deal over the past few months.

 

“It certainly has been an interesting process,” says Bryan.

 

For information about these new products, please visit www.mineva.com

 

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The Cambridge Chamber has joined Canada United, a national movement to support local businesses in communities across the country.

 

As part of the movement, RBC has brought together more than 50 of Canada’s leading brands, Business Associations and the national Chamber network to rally Canadians to “show local some love” by buying, dining and shopping local.

 

“The Cambridge Chamber is pleased to support the Canada United movement and help bolster businesses in and around our community. Small businesses are the backbones of our local economies and key to thriving communities,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for businesses in our region and across the province. We need to continue to support SMEs who create jobs, drive innovation, and generate wealth for communities across Ontario – they will play an integral role in helping the province bounce back.”

 

Canadians are invited to join the Canada United movement by buying and dining local, including celebrating and supporting local businesses during the Canada United Weekend from August 28 to 30.

 

Canadians are also encouraged to watch the Canada United videos online at GoCanadaUnited.ca, like posts from @GoCanadaUnited on social media and use #CanadaUnited to demonstrate their support. For each of these actions until August 31, 2020, RBC will contribute 5 cents up to a maximum contribution amount of $2 million to the new Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, while working with government and corporate partners to source additional contributions to the fund during the course of the campaign. This fund will provide small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses related to personal protective equipment (PPE) renovations to accommodate re-opening guidelines and developing or improving e-commerce capabilities.

 

Small Canadian businesses across the country will be able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding. The program intends to support small Canadian businesses of all kinds from across the country. The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund will be administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the national Chamber network. Small business owners who are interested in the program can visit GoCanadaUnited.ca to learn more about grant application details, including eligibility criteria, and to apply.

 

“We are excited to welcome the Cambridge Chamber to Canada United to help local businesses and Canada’s economy come back strong,” said Neil McLaughlin, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Canada. “Canada United was created to kick-start an economic rebound by rallying consumers to give local businesses the support they need to re-open during these uncertain times. By bringing together government, business associations and corporate Canada, we are looking to start a movement to get Canadians to buy local and support businesses across the country. We are genuinely excited by the energy all of our partners are bringing to this effort.”

 

“If there has been one silver lining in all the tragedy and sacrifices of the current crisis, it has been the spirit of collaboration and unity of purpose that has been evident between levels of government, across provinces and across sectors,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

“We are calling on that same unity of purpose with Canada United. Small, local businesses are the heart of our communities, our Main Streets and our economy. Together, it is time to show local some love.”

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