Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The importance of rapid screening in the battle against this pandemic has been seen as the preferred weapon of choice near the top of the wish-list of health experts and members of the business community since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected more than a year ago.

 

Thanks to the recent introduction of our pilot project that is seeing thousands of Abbott Panbio Antigen screening kits distributed to Waterloo Region SMEs (under 150 employees), many local businesses now have the capability to conduct rapid screening.

 

“If all businesses would jump on board with this process, then we would be able to keep a better eye on the virus as well as the variants,” says Cynthia Fernandez, owner of Accurate Auto Appraisal in Cambridge.

 

She is among at least 1,500 businesses in our region that have utilized the free kits through the www.chambercheck.ca website since the initiative was launched April 5.

 

The goal of the program, created through Health Canada and in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Communitech, is to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals in effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

Volunteers prepare the kits for pick-up at Cambridge Chamber’s office at 750 Hespeler Rd. and in keeping with all the necessary safety protocols, a designate from each SME receives video training when they pick up their kits that explains how to properly supervise the screening process and safely dispose of the used kits.

 

“We know that rapid screening has always been the key when it comes to curbing the spread and having these kits is a great way to assist our SMEs get back on track after a difficult year,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. 

Cynthia agrees.

 

“It is a very nerve-wracking thing to still go to work (outside of the home) and know that it’s still a very real possibility,” she says, referring to the threat of contracting the virus. “Everyone who works for Accurate is very receptive of the screening and it provides a peace of mind for them and their families as well.”

 

Shimco President and CEO Peter Voss has discovered the same after utilizing screening kits for his staff.

 

“Employees have commented that they feel safer now coming to work, and they are more comfortable going home to their families now,” he says, noting they are conducting the recommended two sets of screenings every week.

 

In accordance with safety protocols, if a screen results in a positive for COVID-19, the employee is required to leave the workplace and notify public health to arrange for a PCR Test at an approved Public Health Collection Site and await further instructions from Waterloo Region Public Health.

 

“Our employees see it as a positive addition to our already strict COVID cleaning and screening procedures,” says Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre.

 

At Swift Components Corp., Managing Partner Kristen Danson says having the kits has instilled confidence in her employees, including two additional hires the company made after she picked up her first order of kits the day the program was launched.

 

“Initially, when I said to them it was onsite work, they were quite cautious which is to be expected when starting in a new workplace,” she says. “(The kits) have really helped the new people to our organization see that we are taking this seriously and we have a process in place to control things.”

 

Besides helping employees, having a rapid screening process in place has also inspired more confidence for the clients of these businesses.

 

“For vehicle appraisal, it is very calming for the customers that we need to see in person to know that any of our appraisers that come out to see them are in fact negative, as well as vaccinated,” says Cynthia. “We are so very blessed to be able to have access to them; I feel that it has been a helping with anything that we need to see in person.”

 

The majority of those who’ve accessed the kits say the process is relatively easy to navigate in terms of ordering and administering them.

 

“You have to find a way that works in your system,” says Kristen, explaining how at Swift Components the first round of screenings were administered in a boardroom. “It took forever to rotate people through. But then we realized we have a cart with wheels that we were able to take out into the production area and literally do the screenings on the shop floor.”

 

She says this simple change expediated the process considerably.

 

“You just have to look at your process and space and figure out what works.”

 

Kristen says her company has picked up a second order of kits.

The initial orders provide businesses with two weeks of screening kits, but most are interested in obtaining more.

 

 “Should we use the supply we have been given, we will be requesting more as we continue to promote the benefits of the program to our team,” says Sara.

 

Peter feels the same.

 

“I know it’s not possible currently, but I liked to do the screenings daily if there was enough supply,” he says, adding his employees are screened before they even enter the building.

Each SME is required to electronically submit their screening results after each occasion and the accumulated data will be reported to the Ministry of Health bimonthly.

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The pandemic has created many new shifts, especially when it comes to how millions of Canadians now spend a typical workday.

 

Even before this latest provincial stay-at-home order took effect April 8 requiring all those who can work from home to stay there, a recent Labour Force Survey indicated that 3.1 million Canadians were already working from home temporarily due to COVID-19 as of February 2021.

 

And for those working in their home office - which can translate into a spare room, the kitchen table or even the couch- trying to stay healthy can be difficult, especially when it comes to nourishment and physical activity.

 

“I think some people are working extra hard at home. They’re not having separation of home and work and don’t stop to eat, so they’re not nourishing themselves as well as they should be,” says Janet Jacks, founder of the highly successful Ontario-based organic food and supplement retailer Goodness Me! Natural Food Market. “And other people, because the food is nearby and there are little breaks, they go and grab something and are snacking a lot.”

 

Janet says there has been a shift from the when the pandemic began, and Ontario went into its first lockdown in March of last year.

 

“In the beginning, people were so anxious to eat well and improve. I really sense that people took an interest in eating better food,” she says, noting the popularity of the home baking trend last year. “But I feel like people are tired and although in their mind they know they want to eat better; they just feel like it’s not always easy.”

 

Shane Gray, owner of Rio Nectar Eatery in Cambridge and Guelph, agrees and says many people are even busier at home, whether with work or new hobbies, so eating healthy doesn’t appear to be an option.

 

“People are still grabbing fast food and choosing less healthy options because I’m also finding we’re getting fatigued quicker,” he says, adding the pandemic has left many feeling unbalanced. “As human beings, we need balance and we’re all off balance right now.”

 

That’s why scheduling is so important, says Ashley Viljoen, Regional Manager for Anytime Fitness.

 

“First and foremost, the best advice I can give someone is stick to a schedule just like you would on a workday,” he says. “If you normally work to 9 to 5, make sure you work 9 to 5. If you used to go to the gym from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., still make the time to get out and exercise and be active during that time.”

 

To ensure its members remain connected, Anytime Fitness has been offering online coaching to encourage them to keep up with their routines and stay in the best physical shape they can be, especially with the threat of COVID-19 variances. 

 

“We have a team of coaches that look after them and provide them with online workouts,” says Ashley, explaining it was something the company was looking at prior to the pandemic and expects will continue. “We’re trying to find a market that’s going to accommodate everyone at the end of the day.”

 

He says working out a home doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or space.

“You don’t need a whole apartment to enable you to do a workout,” says Ashely, noting even canvas shopping bags and water bottles or cans that can be adjusted for weight can work for an ‘at home’ training session. “All our workouts that we’ve based it on have been based on functional body weights and exercises.”

 

Staying active, says Shane, who is a parttime paramedic and fitness enthusiast, is vital and urges people to get out of their home office and move around.

“Go for a quick walk, do something,” he says. “It’s not just important for your physical health but overall mental health.”

 

But when it comes to eating, Shane suggests prepping meals ahead of time using non-processed meats like chicken or beef that can be quickly heated up is a great option during a busy workday.

 

“Most meals when you prep them can sit for about three days in the fridge, so now you’ve got something there you can throw in the microwave and eat,” he says, adding eating ‘clean food’ is important for a healthy lifestyle.

 

Janet, who opened her first store in 1981, couldn’t agree more and says eating healthy will manifest itself into being more productive at work.


“If we could feel more energetic and feel like we’re sleeping better and have more energy for other things it is more self-motivating,” she says, noting the staff at Goodness Me! can offer some great nutritional advice.

 

10 pieces of advice from Janet Jacks regarding healthier eating while working at home:

 

1. Create a hydration plan.

“When we are thirsty, we tend to sometimes misinterpret that as hunger and we’re eating when our body is really saying please drink something.”  She recommends keeping a container of green tea or ginger tea, or even lemon water around. Also, if water is too ‘boring’ try throwing in some cucumber slices. She says ginger tea is especially cleansing and very detoxifying. “Whatever it might be, we need a plan to keep us hydrated because will be more clear-minded and have more energy and our body will work better.”

 

2. Watch what you put in your grocery cart.

“When you’re shopping, stock up on real food options, use fresh whole foods.” This includes things like raw cheeses, avocados, nuts, olives, easy vegetables, Bok choy, naturally fermented pickles, tuna and salmon. She recommends sauteing some Bok choy or cabbage in a frying pan for a few minutes and enjoying it with a plate of vegetables is a quick and easy lunch.

 

3. Plan for leftovers.

“Some people are great at using leftovers, and others will see them languish at the back of the fridge and they will end up being thrown out. I think you should even plan for it.” She says leftovers quite often are good for one person, which is great for lunch. She suggests cooking some hearty crockpot or Instant Pot meals that will provide leftovers. Or at dinner, she says cook extra vegetables so you will have some left for lunch the next day. “You can eat these things cold and they are very good, or you could warm them up quickly.”

 

4. Keep boiled eggs handy.

“Just have some in a bowl in the fridge. They’re so hearty and so healthy. All you need is a little bit of salt and you’re good to go. They’re great for snacking or lunch.” Also, she says they provide a great source of protein.

 

5. Make or buy soup.

“I know we’re coming into warmer weather, but a pot of soup is like planned leftovers. Having a big pot of soup in the fridge actually improves with sitting and you can just take out what you need. It’s so fast and hearty. What’s not to like?”

 

6. Each meal should have balance.

“Every time you eat, try to avoid grabbing a cookie and think about I need protein and fat and some kind of vegetable. If I’m going to eat a cookie, it could for dessert as part of that meal.” She refers to this thinking as foundational nutrition and says meal portions are not as important as balance.

 

7. Utilize flexible hours.

“We have these flexible hours which are a great way to try intermittent fasting. It can be a very healthy mechanism. You eat your meals within a more compact window, rather than spread out.” She compares this to the way farmers eat breakfast after they finish their morning chores, suggesting people who work at home could eat their first meal later in the morning after they start work leaving only a few hours before they consume dinner. As a result, she says if they don’t snack in the evening, they could wind up with at least 10 hours or more between their next meal. “That way you give your body more chance to use what you’ve eaten and process everything. Often people feel better when they do this.”

 

8. When you eat, just eat.

Janet says taking the time while eating to stop and savour your food, is important for digestion.

 

“You allow your digestion to have more power. Take a breath and enjoy the colours and the flavours of your food. Sometimes we eat and don’t even know what we just ate.”

 

9. Focus on food with a function.

“Food should taste delicious, but also have a function in the body. Think about food as nourishment that lowers stress or builds immunity, or soothes and restores and rebuilds your digestive system, or keeps inflammation at bay because that’s the root of disease.” She says knowing what foods can help your body is important. “When you’re shopping, rethink food. Respect food and while eating it, think this is taking care of my body while I’m enjoying it.”

 

10. Remember and recall.

“Quality food speaks volumes, and you can feel the difference.”

 

For more information or tips, visit https://goodnessme.ca, https://rionectar.ca and https://anytimefitness.com

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The arrival of a third provincial shutdown could spell even more trouble to the food services sector, which has already been dealt a harsh blow since the pandemic began more than a year ago. 

 

According to a Statistic Canada survey (full survey: https://bit.ly/3t2CvbK) conducted from January to February of this year and released in March, nearly three-fifths (56.6%) of food services and drinking places were already anticipating their profits to drop between January and May of 2021 - even before this latest shutdown - compared to just over two-fifths (41.8%) of all businesses.

Tack these numbers on to the four-fifths (86.5%) of these businesses which already experienced a drop in revenue in 2020 compared to three-fifths (60.5%) of all businesses and it’s easy to see why those in this sector are feeling very frustrated.  

 

For Matt Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, learning to adapt to the roller-coaster of rules contained within the provincial COVID-19 Response Framework has been an ongoing challenge for him and others in the food services sector. 

 

“You don’t really plan for that,” he said, referring to the ‘up and down’ restrictions. “That’s been our biggest disappointment.” 

 

During the first lockdown last year, Matt said like many restaurants he was left with an abundant of product and nowhere to sell it. This included 22 kegs of beer which had been tapped and could no longer be sold.  

 

Like many other restaurant operators, he donated food to those in need in the community and had no choice but to dump the beer. 

 

“Since then, we’ve been more cautious when we bring in products,” he said, noting the introduction of a scaled-down menu which had been slowly increasing after the second lockdown ended in mid-February and Waterloo Region went into the ‘Red Zone’ allowing a maximum of 10 diners inside. 

 

In an interview just prior to this latest shutdown, Matt said he had brought back some additional staff and that a few above-seasonal days resulted in patrons enjoying the outdoors on Thirteen’s patio Main Street. In fact, he’s made an application to increase the restaurant’s patio along the Water Street side of the building.  

 

“Even being open in the modified Red Zone and business was good on the weekend,” he said, noting that patio season really won’t ramp up until the end of June.  

 

Add in takeout sales, something Matt said Thirteen did very little of before COVID-19, and he was seeing sales of up to 40% to 45% on a ‘good day’ of what he would have made prior to the pandemic. 

 

“But from that perspective, our business model wasn’t generated on the idea that we were going to do 50% to 55% less sales,” he said, adding utilizing the various support programs, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, are imperative to small business operators. 

 

“If there were no wage subsidies, we’d probably wouldn’t have re-opened, or we would have just been doing takeout at a very basic level because it just wouldn’t be worth it.” 

 

The survey shows that at their current level of revenue and expenditures, more than half (51.2%) of food services and drinking places are unsure how long they can continue operating. 

 

Fortunately, Matt said owning the building that houses the restaurant has helped but that many others are not in the same boat. 

 

“If I was a restaurant owner that had this much space that I was paying rent for I may have may have packed up my bags and went home for a while,” he said, adding that having cashflow on a busy day is helpful when it comes to paying the bills. 

 

“But the grant program (Small Business Support Grant) is crucial for us when we decide to increase our inventory and want to bring back more staff,” said Matt. 

 

He recommends SMEs like himself utilize as much government support as possible. 

“Just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. “If you truly need it to help your business survive, then get at it. We’re all going to be paying it back anyways.” 

 

Matt, who describes himself as a realist, said he remains confident in his business but admits it’s difficult for him and his staff to stay optimistic, especially when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 safety protocols in addition to their regular work duties.  

 

“I think they’re just getting worn down,” he said, adding even seeing the framework return to the ‘Orange’ or ‘Yellow’ zones would boost morale. 

 

“I would love to see the Drayton theatre (Hamilton Family Theatre) open again but am not sure how that’s going to happen. It’s such a vital part of the downtown core just to bring people in.” 

 

But in the meantime, Matt said he finds hope in seeing more people being vaccinated and remains passionate about running his own business, which includes pitching in to help his staff as much as he can. 

 

“You need to go back to your grassroots of what you can do,” he said. “If that means I’m sweeping the floor and washing dishes, that’s life. It’s not necessarily where I saw myself being, but that’s what you do to keep your business alive if you truly believe in your business.” 

 

StatsCan survey at a glance: 

 

  • In 2020 nearly one-fifth (19.4%) of food services and drinking places made 30% or more of their total sales online, more than double the proportion that did in 2019 (9.1%).
  • Over four-fifths (86.5%) of food services and drinking places experienced a decrease in revenue in 2020 compared to three-fifths (60.5%) of all businesses.  
  • A decline in revenue of 40% or more in 2020 was a reality for over two-fifths (42.9%) of food services and drinking places, with those in Quebec (50.9%), Manitoba (47.9%) and Ontario (44.9%) most likely to see this level of loss. 
  • At their current level of revenue and expenditures, over half (51.2%) of food services and drinking places do not know how long they can continue to operate before considering closure or bankruptcy. 
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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber Welcome Focus on Tourism, Small Business, Women, Training, and Local Communities

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce released the following response to the Government of Ontario’s 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.

 

“Ontario’s 2021 Budget means supports for the hardest-hit sectors and communities including right here in Waterloo Region, much needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, and initiatives that will create a strong economic rebound related to tourism, training, and vital infrastructure such as broadband,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Leading up to Budget 2021, the Ontario Chamber Network was calling for policies that mitigate the immediate impacts of the crisis and lay the groundwork for a robust and inclusive economic recovery. Resources need to be focused on those hit hardest by the pandemic, where they will have the greatest impact.

 

“Ontario’s business community welcomes the 2021 Budget, which gives businesses much-needed supports to confront the current health crisis while laying the foundation for a strong and inclusive economic recovery,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

Some of the things called for in the Ontario Chamber Network pre-Budget Submission included:

  • Targeted support for the hardest-hit sectors and communities;
  • Demand-driven skills programming;
  • Enhanced access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs;
  • Bold action on interprovincial trade;
  • Strengthening of municipalities’ fiscal capacity; and
  • A sensible path to getting Ontario’s finances on track post-pandemic.

 

“Women’s fulsome participation in the labour market is a precondition to our economic recovery and future prosperity. We greatly appreciate the new supports for women, as they have been among those disproportionately impacted by the crisis,” said the report’s author Claudia Dessanti, Senior Policy Analyst of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “A taskforce for inclusive economic growth, further supports for child care, a job training tax credit, relief for the tourism industry, and support for survivors of domestic violence are all welcome initiatives that will help turn the tides on the impacts that were so severe and immediate for women in Ontario. Budget 2021 addresses many of the supports we called for in our recent report, The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario.”

 

Some of the measures welcomed by the Ontario Chamber Network in the 2021 Budget are:

 

Support for inclusive growth:

 

  • A taskforce for inclusive economic growth. The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women, racialized individuals, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and other communities in the province. The new taskforce will examine how to increase women’s participation in the workforce, which will support economic recovery.
  • Temporary Job Training Tax Credit. Studies suggest about half a million jobs are not expected to return in Canada after the pandemic, the majority of which are occupied by women. Financial support for underemployed individuals to access training and reskilling will be particularly important for lower-income workers, new immigrants, and Ontarians living in Indigenous, rural, remote, and northern communities.
  • Child care support. Access to affordable child care is a long-standing issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Enhancing the CARE tax credit for 2021, extending financial support for virtual learning costs, and investing in new child care spots will help ease the burden for Ontario families and allow more women to re-enter the workforce.
  • Supports for women fleeing domestic violence. The increase in domestic violence incidences during the pandemic has forced many women to leave their homes and communities, jeopardizing their safety and livelihood. Support for women in transitional housing and underserved areas will help provide safety for women in vulnerable situations.

 

Supports for business:

 

  • Doubling of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The grant has helped many organizations survive the crisis thus far and making this an automatic top-up instead of asking businesses to re-apply will reduce the administrative burden on both businesses and government.
  • Additional resources for the Digital Main Street Grant. Many small businesses, particularly in rural and remote regions, have benefited from the supports of this grant to get their business online. Expanding the program will help more businesses digitize and prepare for the economy of tomorrow.
  • Invest Ontario Fund. Additional funding in Invest Ontario over the next four years will be important to create jobs and investment across the province.

 

Support for tourism:

 

  • Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant. The OCC recently wrote to the Ontario government about how the tourism industry is not eligible for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. This new grant is welcome news for hotels, travel agencies, hunting and fishing camps, and other organizations that did not qualify for the original grant.
  • Local Tourism Tax Credit and Tourism Recovery Program. Many of the chambers of commerce and boards of trade are active in the tourism industries within their local communities. These additional supports will be critical to support a revival of tourism after the pandemic.
  • Support for alcohol producers & local distilleries. Ontario’s vineyards, cideries, and small distillers have been greatly impacted by the pandemic as tourism stalled this year.

 

Support for communities and municipalities:

 

  • Broadband investments. The pandemic has put the spotlight on the digital divide for people and businesses, particularly in remote and rural communities. Additional funding to connect all Ontarians, including businesses, to reliable broadband by 2025 is welcome news. 
  • Regional Opportunities Tax Credit. Additional resources towards this program will allow rural and remote communities to invest in projects that create local jobs and economic growth.
  • Property reassessment for municipalities. Pausing the property tax reassessment gives municipalities and businesses more capacity and time to adjust to the economic uncertainty and challenges caused by the pandemic.
  • Expansion of the Ontario Together Fund. The Ontario Together Fund has successfully leveraged Ontario’s business community to address pandemic-related challenges and support relief efforts.
  • Access to vaccination appointments. The Ontario Chamber Network welcomes support to help seniors and people with disabilities get to their vaccination appointments. The faster the population is inoculated, the sooner we can focus on recovery.
  • Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund. Renovations to local buildings and sports facilities will also be integral to local economic growth and recovery initiatives.

Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce full pre-Budget submission here.

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When it comes to the battle against COVID-19, businesses need an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.  

 

One of the best, besides the necessary PPE, is contact tracing which is a core disease control measure.

 

“To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in a workplace, it is critical businesses conduct contact tracing,” says Dr. Ryan Van Meer, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Waterloo Region Public Health. “Businesses know where staff work, with whom, and when, and have means to contact staff who may have had close (high risk) contact in a prompt manner to instruct them to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

He says many workplaces are conducting contact tracing well, despite the fact there may be the perception it is difficult because it is typically done by nurses and other professionals.

 

“But many workplaces have gained experience with it over the pandemic and our COVID-19 Contact Tracing resource is an excellent tool to help guide them through the decision-making process,” says Dr. Van Meer.

 

At the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, we have partnered with Get Ready, a CBRN and Chamber Member, to provide an easy electronic screening tool to ensure the safety of our staff, customers, visitors and contractors, entering our office. The tool utilizes a quick scan of a ‘QR Code’ on their mobile devices or desktops which provides all the necessary information that Public Health will require for contact tracing purposes should an employee get sick or exposed to the virus in the workplace.  The province of Ontario has required all workplaces to implement daily screening for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment.

 

Dr. Van Meer says the Region has resources in place to assist workplaces.

 

“Our guide for workplaces helps employers determine who is a close (high risk) contact that needs to self-isolate and get tested,” he says, adding there are other ‘upstream’ public health measures workplaces can use to prevent high risk contact. These include physical distancing, PPE, preventing close contact during lunches and breaks, as well as environmental cleaning and disinfection.

 

Dr. Van Meer says when there are multiple confirmed cases in a workplace, the Region’s Workplace Team follows up directly with the employer to support contact tracing and ensures Public Health measures are in place to prevent further spread.

 

“We currently have approximately 135 staff supporting case and contact management across all settings, as well as additional support from the province,” says Dr. Van Meer, adding there are steps employers must take if a worker tests positive for the virus. “Workplaces should work with their employee who is a confirmed case and consult the Contact Tracing guide for workplaces to determine who would have had close (high risk) contact with the case during the period the case was infectious and instruct those contacts to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

For more information on the Region of Waterloo’s COVID-19 resources for workplaces, visit: https://bit.ly/2ODUWEx

 

To learn more about the ‘Get Ready’ screening tool for your office, please visit: https://bit.ly/3euKYQQ

 

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Chamber network urges government to address pain points and lay the groundwork for a strong rebound as province grapples with economic fallout of the crisis

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released its 2021 Ontario pre-Budget submission, which focuses on recovery, growth, and modernization.

 

The submission calls for policies that minimize the impacts of business closures, uplift the sectors and demographics hit hardest by the pandemic, invest in the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernize government services to improve outcomes for businesses and residents.

 

 

“With Ontario’s economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “In the upcoming budget, we would like to see a focus on reskilling, broadband, and access to capital, which will be necessary for the revival of small business and entrepreneurship as well as an inclusive   economic recovery.”

 

In 2021, Ontario will continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The Cambridge Chamber and OCC’s submission notes the crisis has created new problems and exacerbated pre-existing ones. The impact on people and business has been catastrophic overall, and disproportionate for certain regions, sectors, and demographics.

 

“Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

The recommendations outlined in the submission were developed together with businesses, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade. The submission focuses on mitigating the immediate impacts of the crisis, while laying the groundwork for a robust and sustainable economic recovery.

 

Read our provincial pre-budget submission here: bit.ly/3qYxUqg

 

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(February 5, 2021) – The Chamber Network is looking forward to create a co-ordinated approach to reopening the province’s economy in the wake of the pandemic and calling on the Provincial government to ensure this happens in a balanced fashion.

 

“In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, it is difficult to think beyond confronting the immediate demands of COVID-19,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.   “However, even as we continue supporting each other today, we must also begin looking over the horizon to ensure businesses are prepared for the province’s reopening and recovery. It is never too early to start planning how our province and economy can emerge stronger while doing everything necessary to avoid further lockdowns.”

 

Each region’s experience differs significantly across the province when it comes to transmission rates, tracking and tracing capacity, and other variables.  The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have written to the Premier so that when the time comes businesses of all sizes have a predictable and coordinated effort to ensure society reopens in a harmonized fashion that prioritizes individual safety as well as economic stability asking for the following:

 

  • A readiness plan with a focus on sectors and regions hardest hit. It is critical that Ontario’s employers are aware of how reopening will take place step-by-step so they can properly prepare.
  • Advanced notice. Businesses and their employees need sufficient time to prepare to get back to work. 
  • Clear guidelines. Businesses need to clearly understand the rules and how they will be enforced. Inconsistent and unclear public health guidelines cause confusion among businesses, employees, and consumers alike, and make it difficult for individuals to take appropriate action to protect themselves and their communities.
  • Fulsome communication. Educational training via virtual workshops in advance of reopening would equip employers with practical information to help them keep staff and customers safe.
  • Workforce management systems. Employers in Ontario should adopt a scalable digital software tool for routine self-screening and assessment by employees, as part of a comprehensive workforce management system.
  • Rapid testing. Sufficient and timely testing and tracing gets employees back to work quickly, ensuring continued productivity and reduced strain on families.
  • Evidence-based decision making. A strong testing and tracing apparatus ensures the province can accurately assess where and how the virus is spreading, so that efforts to target restrictions can be confidently based on solid data.
  • Continued supports for those who need it most. Finally, continued timely and accessible supports for business will prevent further layoffs, closures, and bankruptcies.
  • Leveraging private sector to support vaccine distribution and deployment. Businesses will be critical in supporting public awareness, logistical capabilities, and best practices.

“As the government explores options to safely re-open the economy, it is worth noting that businesses already adhere to a number of existing health and safety protocols and will do their part to support a safe re-opening. The business community will continue to prove their commitment to safety protocols to protect their worker and customers to keep their doors open,” added Durocher

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The pandemic has not only dramatically altered our lives, but also the way we do business.

 

Conducting business online has become paramount for many operations which makes the the importance of effective marketing even more vital to ensure a strong client base.

 

“Is your website SEO and is it navigational intuitive? Have you thought about using Google ads?” asks Mike Jennings, president of the Cambridge-based digital marketing agency MoreSALES.

 

These are just some of the many questions that will form the base of the discussion he will lead at our next YIP Growth Learning Series event later this month ‘Marketing 101: 4 Ps of Marketing – Place, Price, Promotion, Product’.

 

This seminar is aimed at assisting entrepreneurs in understanding how to effectively market their product/service by utilizing the basic ‘4Ps’ strategy to create a sales and marketing strategy.

 

Mike says the onset of COVID-19 has resulted in many marketing changes.

 

“Prices aren’t going to change that much,” he says. “But promotion is going to be the main difference in a COVID world. How do you promote your product?”

 

He says the seminar will focus heavily on digital marketing, which has been his speciality for many years, and the importance of being able to shift when it comes to doing business.

 

“Do you shift your price to be more attractive on e-commerce?” asks Mike, noting that e-commerce is a vital tool for businesses when it comes to competing. “People are not going to be rushing back to your building. They’re still going to want to buy online and those businesses that are easy to buy from are the ones that are going to get the business.”

 

He says an important takeaway for seminar participants will be to realize these changes don’t have to signify the end for their business.

 

“There are ways to adjust,” says Mike, adding looking at the expected trajectory of the market is key. “You have to think six to 12 months ahead and how you apply these principles (4 Ps).”

 

He says a business will never ‘lose’ using e-commerce and digital marketing.

“It’s only going to compound the return to normalcy and accelerate that return to normalcy,” says Mike.

 

‘Marketing 101: 4 Ps of Marketing – Place, Price, Promotion, Product’ takes place Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 11 a.m. to noon and is sponsored by Deluxe.  Click here to register.

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This year, the conversations around proper mental health resources and funding are more important than ever.  A recent poll shows that 40 percent of Canadians have reported their mental health declining over the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the continued enormous pressure and strain families, employees and employers have been dealing with. There is no question this pandemic has taken a toll and as we continue to navigate a second wave and ongoing lockdowns, now more than ever it is important we take a moment to remember our own needs and support each other to get through these challenging times. While we are physically apart, no one is alone when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

 

We have put together a list of resources that business owners, employers and employees can use to help navigate and manage mental health when it comes to our daily lives, the workplace and longer term tips and tricks. You can take a look at our full list of health resources here and even more resources from Bell, here.

 

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada provides mental health resources and direct access to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls.

 

Mental Health Commission of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed a hub of credible information and resources about maintaining mental health during this time of crisis and supporting people managing a mental illness in this new context.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health by Canada Life

Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health website is a leading source of free, practical tools and resources designed to help Canadian employers with the prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues.

 

Lumino Health Stress and Anxiety Guide from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Lumino Health platform, which is free to use and available to all Canadians, features a wide variety of mental health information and tools, including a Stress and Anxiety Guide that helps Canadians easily navigate to resources that fit their needs.

 

Workplace Mental Health Solutions from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Workplace Mental Health Solutions website provides organizations and their plan members with relevant resources that support all stages and needs, including free mental health e-training and industry-leading thought leadership.

 

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The amount of information surfacing almost daily surrounding COVID-19 can be daunting, especially for those running a business.

 

Trying to keep customers and employees safe while trying to conduct business has become a real change for many. But there is help available thanks to our ‘Chamber Check’ program.

This free and innovative program powered by Axonify and created in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce offers valuable certification training to business owners and their employees when it comes to operating in a COVID-19 environment.

 

Through our Chamber Business Ready platform, Chamber Check participants are provided with a series of valuable resources, including videos and quizzes designed around various safety issues and potential scenarios that can arise while working in the midst of this pandemic.

 

For Patti Harris-Lindstrom, Office Manager of Towcon Holdings in Cambridge, receiving her Chamber Check certification proved to be a great way to collect additional knowledge.

 

“We’re trying to gather as much information as we possibly can because no one seems to know what this virus is all about,” she says. “We’re trying to take in as much information as we can to make informed decisions.”

 

As they work their way through the interactive and educational tools contained in the training, the knowledge the participants gain is designed to benefit them in the day-to-day operation of their businesses.

 

“We’ve been trying to keep on top of this as much as we possibly can and when this (Chamber Check) came out I decided to take it and see if there is anything we don’t already know,” says Patti, adding there was new information which proved beneficial and would gladly recommend others participate. “It’s very informative.”

 

Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, discovered the same and is pleased by the training provided.

“I was impressed that dealing with difficult customer service interactions was also part of the training, not just technical processes of wearing PPE,” she says. “This was very useful for our company.”

 

Stephanie Melo, Office Administrator/Health and Safety Co-ordinator at Sousa Concrete, also says the training she and members of her management office team received has been extremely helpful.

 

“One of the major things I learned was there is a difference between sanitation and disinfection,” she says, adding it only took her about an hour to complete the required modules.

 

The program can also be completed in short increments depending on work schedules, which is exactly what Sara did.

 

“It took me approximately two weeks as I did one to three modules a day,” she says.

But regardless of how participants approach it, the training they receive will strengthen the business community by helping create more consumer confidence.

“I knew it would be beneficial for the company to have since we take COVID-19 very serious,” says Stephanie, noting building consumer confidence is vital right now for all businesses. “It is very important since this is a very strange time we are living in.”

Sara agrees and has recommended that all her managers now complete the program.

 

“Any training program we can participate in, we will look into,” she says.

Providing as much support as possible to small businesses, especially now during COVID-19, was the key reason the Chambers developed Chamber Check.

“Being small businesses, it’s in our hands to do what we can to keep people safe, both those who work for us and those who enter our places of business,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “That’s the best defence we have towards keeping our businesses open.”

 

Upon completion of the training participants receive a ‘Chamber Check’ certificate indicating they have received extensive safety education to conduct business in our COVID-19 world, plus the business receives a decal to be placed in a location to let customers know that workplace offers a safe environment.

 

The program, developed in consultation with Region of Waterloo Public Health, is available to not just business owners but any number of their employees who receive an email confirming they have completed the training.

 

“We’re proud to partner with The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce on the Chamber Check program. As a Waterloo‐based business we’re dedicated to doing our part to keep our local residents safe,” said Carol Leaman, Founder and CEO of Axonify.

To get your Chamber Check training, visit www.chambercheck.ca

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