Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Visit the Youth Creativity Fund to learn more.

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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Providing the necessary supports to businesses is vital, especially as work continues to rebuild our economy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by getting people back to work. 

 

One way to ensure the economic development of Canada is well positioned is by creating more opportunities for entrepreneurial newcomers who can not only help fill existing labour shortage gaps but work towards reshaping our business landscape by opening new businesses and assisting existing ones in need of solid succession plans as aging business owners look towards retirement. 

 

With that in mind, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has developed a policy through consultations with Members via its MasterMind series entitled ‘Promoting the need for Entrepreneurship Immigration’ which calls for the Federal government to examine ways to ensure that a percentage of the 1.2 million immigrants slated to be brought to Canada by our government over the course of the next three years be linked to the entrepreneurship stream.

 

The policy won approval at the recent 2021 Canadian Chamber AGM & Convention which attracted more than 250 Chamber policymakers and officials nationwide virtually over a two-day period. The approved policy now becomes part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s mandate when it lobbies at the legislative level with the Federal government.

 

“This policy will target individuals who are entrepreneurs and business builders who come to Canada with money in their pockets to not only invest in this country, but more importantly to invest in their own businesses here that will create opportunities for other Canadians,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “We’re always looking for companies that want to expand into Canada, but why don’t we look for people who want to bring their businesses and business ideas here? It’s a market that’s been left untapped and we hope this policy receives serious consideration at the Federal level.”

 

An estimated 181,000 of small business owners according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey conducted last year said they were seriously considering closing due to the pandemic and at least 200,000 were facing closure. Coupled with the fact many small business owners on the verge of retirement have not created viable succession plans – a CFIB survey conducted in 2018 indicated more than $1.5 trillion in business assets will be in play over the next decade as 72% of small business owners leave their business – there exists many potential opportunities for new immigrants with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

 

A current shortage of workers, especially in the construction, manufacturing, and hospitality industries, has set the stage for skilled immigrants in these fields to enter the market and possibly use their entrepreneurial know-how and practical work experiences to create new opportunities in these sectors. 

 

The Federal government has been attempting to make strides in addressing the ongoing shortage of skilled workers in Canada which has been only amplified by the pandemic. 

 

In February of this year, it announced an invitation to approximately 27,300 workers with Canadian experience to apply for permanent residence. This followed on an earlier federal announcement in the fall of 2020 to bring to Canada an additional 1.2 million immigrants over the course of the next three years: 401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023. 

 

While this influx of newcomers is welcomed and needed considering there are growing concerns centred on Canada’s falling birth rate, a more focused approach to create an ‘economic immigration policy’ that not only provides ample assistance to newcomers but also ensures the needs of existing Canadian groups, including Indigenous entrepreneurs seeking their own opportunities, are not negatively impacted, would be beneficial.

 

“We have an immigration policy that is geared towards our economy. It’s a point system, largely generated on the skills newcomers bring to the table,” says Greg, referring to education and various qualifications. “The problem is there are holes within the economic system that are not being filled.”

 

He says the current system often seems to focus on professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers but needs to be widened. 

 

“We need to look at people who have businesses and would like to move them here have business ideas and the skills to develop those ideas in Canada,” says Greg.

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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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In this edition ofthis weeks V-Blog Greg discusses why it will not only keep the heritage aspect intact but also put a new spin on the area for our futures. Not only our futures though. It will benefit our grandchildren's future as well. This will be a district unlike any in Ontario. So check out this video and support the Gaslight District.

 

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Get ready, they'll be knocking on your door looking for your vote. HOWEVER thisyear you don't need to go out and vote, you can vote in your jammies. That's right, ONLINE and Telephone voting is here in Cambridge. Odd that we are technically so far ahead of those other areas of our Region. Look, the internet is over 25 years old (in our homes), this is the 21st Century, I should be able to vote in my pajamas, its about time!

 

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