Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The holiday shopping season has begun, and retailers are hoping for the best despite the fact consumer indicators have been painting a less than perfect picture of the weeks to come. In fact, according to Deloitte Canada’s 2023 Holiday Retail Outlook, Canadians are expected to spend at least $1,300 over the holidays representing an 11% drop from last year. 

 

But how these dire predictions will affect them in 2024 remains to be seen.

 

“I think in 2024 retailers will be facing an awful lot of pressure on inventory management and cashflows just because of the interest rate problems,” says Brad Davis, Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, who specializes in consumer behaviour and trends. “I think retailers are going to have a real deal seeking consumer base who are going to want deals, and that again cuts into their margins and can play havoc with inventory turnover.”

 

He says like the past couple of years, effective retail management will be required noting that consumers, in general, don’t really pay attention to consumer indicators.

 

“We’re not very good a judging what is a good deal or what is good value,” says Brad, noting that many consumers are very susceptible to perceived ‘sales’. “We have this whole apparatus that is designed to stimulate impulse purchasing.”

 

To encourage more in-store shopping, which has been facing turmoil as anti-theft measures and store closures detract from the customer experience, retail experts insist consumers must be provided exclusive products and deals or fun, and experiences they can’t find online. 

 

However, Brad says the true definition of what that special ‘customer experience’ is can be hard to pinpoint.

 

“Experts can never seem to quite define what this is,” he jokes, adding a positive in-store environment with expediated delivery and payments, and return policies should play a role. “We used to just call it good customer service. But for most consumers, when you talk to them about what they think is a good experience it’s ‘Can I find stuff easy?’, ‘I want to be able to check in and out fast’, ‘I don’t want salespeople bugging me unless I need help’. It’s sort of fairly basic.”

 

He says customer mapping is also something to consider, noting that online searching can lead consumers to physical stores. Industry experts often refer to the omnichannel approach where consumers may start their search in one place and make their purchase in another and encourage retailers in 2024 to learn where their audience is discovering products and where they are buying them.

 

“There is still a huge social component of shopping in a mall, particularly with younger generations,” says Brad, noting that humans still crave that ‘tactile’ physical encounter. “You have a generation of young people who is always going to gravitate to that sense of immediate gratification.”

 

He says the key for retailers going forward is to remain flexible in their approach to conducting business.

 

“Something that worked before and got you where you are now does not mean it’s going to get you where you need to go next,” says Brad. “Things are just happening so fast in multiple directions, and you have to be open to rethink and revisit what you thought was truth before.”

 

 

Released this past fall, the 6th annual RCC X Leger Holiday Shopping Survey from Retail Council of Canada (RCC) unveils the evolving shopping patterns of more than 2,500 Canadians: 

 

A few findings:

 

  • Savvy Shopping in Spotlight: Economic apprehensions, including inflation and rising living costs, weigh on many. Accordingly, 88% (vs 83% in 2022) of Canadians are turning to proactive holiday shopping tactics, most notably hunting for sales (52%), preparing in advance (41%), and adhering to a precise budget (40%).
  • Retailer Selection: To help shoppers decide which retailers to buy from this year, Canadians are prioritizing holiday sales/promotions (66%) and free shipping (55%). They are also looking for in-store exclusives (48%) and distinct online promotions (60%) to provide additional value.
  • Shopping Experiences Enhancers: In-store shopping will benefit from value bundles (26%) and product sampling (25%). Conversely, online shopping will be amplified by unique product offers and extended return policies, both at 33%.
  • Lead Spending Categories: Clothing emerges as 2023’s frontrunner, constituting 17% of the holiday budget, followed closely by home entertainment and essentials like food and alcohol grabbing 16% of the planned spend. 
  • More Gift Cards:  45% of shoppers are leaning towards purchasing gift cards for others this season, with a notable 37% of Canadians (up from 32% last year) expressing a preference for receiving gift cards over traditional presents. Dining gift cards top the charts (42%), while big-box retailers come in at 33% and food outlets register at 27%.
  • Local Shopping Upswing: Supporting local businesses this holiday has seen an increase in intent, with 82% of Canadians accentuating its importance, a leap from 74% last year.

 

Source: Canada News Wire

 

 

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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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The following piece is one of several appearing in the special summer edition of  our Insight Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

A variety of components are required to build a successful community.

 

Among these is a strong link to higher education, something Cambridge has been fortunate to have since its amalgamation courtesy of Conestoga College.

 

Founded in 1967 as Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology, it was among 22 community colleges established by the Ontario government between 1966-69 to provide diplomas and certificates in career-related, skills-oriented programs.

 

In the beginning, Conestoga College offered only part-time classes out of Preston High School as construction began on its Doon campus site in the south end of Kitchener, and by 1969 had already expanded by setting up Adult Education Centres in Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, and Waterloo. It also began offering 17 full-time programs set up in portables at its Doon site to accommodate 188 students, with 67 of them attending its very first convocation in 1969.

 

But the college faced growing demand which resulted in the opening of a permanent campus in Guelph in 1970. Within a few years, not only did construction began on its Early Childhood Education Centre at its main Doon campus but the college also established its nursing program when the responsibility of four regional schools of nursing was transferred to Conestoga.

 

Throughout the next few decades as Cambridge expanded, the college continually added additional programs to keep pace with growing demands, to the point where it currently serves approximately 26,000 students (12,500 full time) through its eight campuses and training centres in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford, Guelph, Ingersoll, and Brantford.

 

Being designated in 2003 as one three Institutes of Technology and Advance Learning by the province, along with Humber and Sheridan colleges, opened even more possibilities for the college now that it could award degrees to students in its Mechanical Systems Engineering program and Bachelor of Architecture Project & Facility Management program. Additional degree programs were added in the years that followed.

 

“I think the college has come a long way because we have a vision, we have a purpose and we’ve been trying to get a little better,” said Conestoga College President John Tibbits, who took on the job in 1987, in a previous interview with the Chamber.

 

In the fall of 2006, he shared some of that vision when plans were unveiled for a proposed Cambridge campus to be located on a 136-acre site near Blair. According to an article published in the Cambridge Times that September, the campus was to become home to four centres of excellence with the consolidation of many existing engineering technology and industry trade programs from the Doon and Guelph campuses.

 

The cost for this venture was pegged at $47 million and would include a 200,000-square-foot building to house 1,600 students by 2009.

 

In the end, the college’s Engineering & Technology Campus opened on Fountain Street South in Cambridge in 2011. The 260,000-square-foot building – awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification - not only houses innovative technology labs and shops, but the Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) which features processing lines for beverages, baked goods, vegetables, and a food testing laboratory. This 8,000-square-foot plant is a one-of-a-kind learning facility in Canada.

 

A year later the college established its Centre for Smart Manufacturing, with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, to provide students from various IT and engineering programs with a hands-on chance to work with industry partners in the robotics, automation, and manufacturing sectors.

 

In 2018, the Conestoga Applied Research Facility opened at 96 Grand Ave. South in downtown Cambridge and now plays host to the rebranded SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre which made the move from the Doon campus. It now occupies 10,000 square feet of space in the historic Grand Innovations building for applied research with another 7,000 to 8,000 used to house the centre’s fully operational recycling plant.

 

“SMART Centre is all about engagement with industry and the ability for us, as subject matter experts in advanced manufacturing, recycling and digital innovation, to engage with students and industry partners to help solve industry challenges,” said Ignac Kolenko, Executive Director of the SMART Centre, in a previous Chamber interview.

 

However, the college made an even bigger investment in Cambridge when it transformed the former Erwin Hymer Group North America manufacturing plant into its state-of-the-art Skilled Trades campus.

 

The 250,000 square foot building on Reuter Drive, the former home to the BlackBerry repair centre, was purchased by Conestoga College in 2019 at a cost of $33.5 million with the aim to bring all its trade schools together under a single roof.

 

“It’ll give us a chance to have one of the most comprehensive and high-quality trades facilities in the province,” Tibbits told the Waterloo Record at the time. “This is a game-changer.”

 

The campus opened in 2022 and features more than 150,000 square feet of shops and labs designed and equipped to meet the unique requirements of trades education and training. Additional phases for the 40+-acre property are currently underway.

 

But the college’s commitment to education has also been matched by its ongoing commitment to the local community and its $1.5 million partnership with the City of Cambridge towards the creation of the Fountain Street Soccer Complex is the perfect example. The site will feature seven fields – four with natural turf and three with synthetic turf – as well as a 6,500 square-foot-service building.


“Conestoga has a long and proven history of working with our municipal partners to address local economic, social and workforce needs,” said Tibbits. “The college greatly appreciates our partnership with the City of Cambridge and with leading Cambridge employers such as Toyota, ATS and Eclipse Automation as well as with our many applied research partners and collaborators as we all work together to build a stronger, more prosperous community.”

 

Just the facts 

  • Conestoga grads contribute more than $2.3 billion to the local economy annually
  • 5,231 Ontario businesses are owned by Conestoga College graduates
  • 4.8% of Conestoga College’s alumni are business owners (5,416 businesses owned by grades).
  • Since 2018, more than 170 employers have relied on Conestoga College’s Corporate Training services to support the upskilling of their employees
  • Nearly 55% of the local adult population has participated in Conestoga’s education and training opportunities
  • The college welcomes 2,500 international students from 80 countries – largest number of students from India, with South Korea, China, Brazil, Central America, and Nigeria
  • International students now represent 20% of full-time student population
  • Nearly 80% of international students remain in Canada when they graduate
  • More than 1,500 Conestoga students participate in applied research projects annually
  • 96.6% of Conestoga grads live in Ontario, with 64.8% living in the local community

 

* Courtesy of Conestoga College

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The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of  our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

As dignitaries gathered for the ground-breaking ceremony of Toyota Motor Corporation’s much anticipated Cambridge assembly plant on May 6, 1986, the Waterloo Record reported that four windsocks painted to look like fish hung outside the tent where officials had gathered.

 

Called ‘koinobori’ or carp streamer, Toyota Motor Corporation’s late president Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda explained the significance of the gesture, noting the fish is known as one that fights its way, even up a waterfall.

 

“The carp streamer is used as a symbol of vitality for parents who wish good health and strong development for their children,” he was quoted at the time. “We have hoisted the koinobori here in the hope that our company will grow to become a business appreciated and respected by everyone as a whole.”

 

Nearly 40 years later, it’s clear this ‘hope’ for success has manifested as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. continues to be a major industry and economic leader, and community partner for Cambridge and southwestern Ontario as a whole.

 

From the moment the first Corolla rolled off the assembly line at its Cambridge facility shortly before 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1988, the company has continually succeeded creating hundreds of new jobs over the years through the expansion of new product lines.

 

Cambridge was selected from over 40 municipalities in Canada for the plant and federal government incentives were a consideration. Former Cambridge MP Chris Speyer, quoted in an article in the Dec. 12, 1985, edition of the Cambridge Reporter announcing the news, said there were incentives in the contract to encourage Toyota to buy Canadian parts and that the provincial government would contribute $15 million over five years toward a program to train Ontario workers.

 

“I’m extraordinarily proud of our community that Toyota would choose us to locate such a major enterprise. This is the happiest day of my political career,” he told the Reporter, before describing the “tremendous positive impact” the plant would have on the local economy, noting the average salaries at that time would range from between $25,000 to $30,000.

 

“Just think of what that means to housing in our area, to shopping and small business as well as the spin-off effect by other industries locating within our area in order to service Toyota,” said Speyer.

 

The Cambridge plant was expected, in the beginning, to produce 50,000 cars a year with the capacity to reach 100,000 when market conditions permitted, providing work for 1,000 employees.

 

In a Reporter article published a year before the plant opened, it was reported that a progress report indicated it would provide 1,000 direct manufacturing jobs that would result in another 2,000 new jobs in the automotive and service industry.

 

To date, TMMC now employs more than 8,500 people across its three production lines in Cambridge and Woodstock. In Cambridge alone, its North and South plants encompass three million square feet on 400 acres located at the corner of Maple Grove Road and Fountain Street North.

 

The company, which has won numerous awards recognizing it as a ‘top employer’ and ‘greenest employer’, continues to thrive and evolve.

 

In August of last year, it marked a special anniversary when a red Lexus NX 350h hybrid electric luxury SUV, rolled off the line in Cambridge representing the 10th million vehicle produced by TMMC.

 

“Today’s milestone speaks to how far Toyota’s manufacturing operations in Canada have come over the past three decades,” said TMMC President Frank Voss in a press release at the time. “In 1988, the year we opened our first plant in Cambridge, our team members built 153 Toyota Corollas and it took over 11 years to produce our first 11 million vehicles. Today, we’re Canada’s largest automaker and leading maker of electrified vehicles, building half a million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for the North American market every year. Our world-class team members have been trusted to build some of the most popular vehicles in North America and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

 

 

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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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Finding the right employees continues to be a challenge. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the global market research and consulting firm The Harris Poll, 75% of Canadian employers expect to have hiring challenges in 2023.

 

According to the survey, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, the three biggest challenges they are most concerned about are being forced to hire less qualified candidates (31%), high employee turnover (30%), and overall labour shortages (29%).

 

Bradley Jenkins, who owns and operates the Express Employment Professionals office in Cambridge which connects job seekers and employers, says recruiting employees continues to be a struggle as the Canadian economy remains ‘soft’.

 

“Right now, the Canadian Staffing Index is at the lowest it’s ever been since January 2021,” he says, noting the cost of doing business in Canada remains high and expects economic levels won’t return to ‘normal’ until next summer.

 

As a result, Bradley says many of his clients are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes hiring employees.

 

“Certain jobs aren’t there like they once were. Employers are being more guarded,” he says, noting industrial unskilled and semi-skilled positions, once the staple of the staffing industry in Ontario, are no longer as bountiful, due in part to automation.

 

But for businesses in need of employees, Bradley stresses the need for developing a solid recruitment plan, other than just using an online job site which could result in hundreds of potential candidates applying.

 

“Who do have you in your organization that is trained and skilled at screening and can conduct interviews so you can have a quick turnaround and have a qualified candidate in place in a matter of weeks?” he says. “How much time can you spend going through those candidates, while you’re not spending time running your business?”

 

As a company that works with mostly medium to small-sized companies, Bradley says the majority don’t have a dedicated job recruiter and often rely on someone in human resources to do the job which also presents problems.

 

“Hiring is hard work,” he says. “Good people are always going to be hard to find and that isn’t going to change.”

 

Bradley says once that right employee is found, he recommends an employer discover what is the key motivation of that worker.

 

“An employer must understand what motivates each team member and each team member is unique,” he says. “Having that understanding will keep your employee engaged and if they’re engaged, they’re performing.”

 

 

Recruiting top talent can be challenging in today's competitive job market. Employers need effective strategies to attract the right candidates who align with their organization. We reached out to Alliance Consulting Canada in Cambridge who provided these tips to help employers overcome recruitment hurdles and successfully recruit potential employees.

 

Cultivate an Irresistible Employer Brand:

Define and articulate your company's unique selling points, values, and mission. Showcase your positive company culture and share authentic employee testimonials. By building a compelling employer brand, you'll attract candidates who are genuinely enthusiastic about joining your team.

 

Diversify Recruitment Strategies:

Leverage digital platforms, social media, industry forums, and partnerships with educational institutions. Employee referral programs can also be highly effective. By exploring multiple channels, you increase your chances of finding the perfect fit for your organization.

 

Optimize the Candidate Experience:

Streamline your hiring process, simplify applications, and communicate promptly and proactively. A positive candidate experience enhances your employer reputation and attracts top talent.

 

Conclusion:

By focusing on building an irresistible employer brand, diversifying recruitment strategies, and optimizing the candidate experience, employers can overcome recruitment challenges and attract the right talent. These strategies will contribute to the long-term success and growth of your organization.

 

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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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The minimum wage in Ontario will increase on Oct. 1 to $16.55 an hour and could impact many businesses and their customers.

 

“I think we’ll be fine because I’m confident with our business model and location, but I think it’s going to affect some businesses dramatically because there is no way there can’t be an increase in prices on goods and services,” says Matt Rolleman, a Chamber Member and co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, noting like many restaurants the majority of his staff currently is paid above minimum wage.

 

While the same holds true for many tourism and hospitality businesses, the Tourism Industry of Association of Ontario (TIAO) says it will continue to advocate for tax reforms and other measures to help offset rising commercial costs and supply chain disruptions while promoting business growth.

 

“We’re constantly hearing from businesses about the rising cost of doing business, from paying down pandemic debt to supply chain disruptions that affect the availability of key goods and products, unaffordable commercial insurance premiums, and reduced liability coverage that may impact the scope of what operators can offer in the visitor experience,” says Dr. Jessica Ng, Director, Policy & Government Affairs for TIAO. “The labour crisis has only added to these costs, as businesses look for ways to recruit and retain the staff they need.”

 

She says reviewing compensation structures is one strategy to make tourism and hospitality jobs more attractive and sustainable.

 

“You have to try and pay people for their value, or perceived value,” says Matt, adding it is likely increases will be implemented for all his staff as minimum wage hikes close the salary gap between employees. “We’re doing our best to keep our prices where they are right now, but costs have gone through the roof and trying to manage all these things for all businesses has just become more tougher.”

 

Matt says the timing of the wage hike this coming fall so close to the December 2023 CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) loan repayment deadline may also be an issue for many small businesses.

 

“For businesses that rely on part-time minimum wage workers there’s no way they cannot raise their prices,” he says, adding while boosting minimum wage is necessary to help ensure people can pay their bills, the way increases are introduced leaves a lot to be desired.

 

“It’s become too politicized,” says Matt, noting if it was indexed with a cost of living increase it may be easier to plan for it. “Businesses would expect it every year and maybe we wouldn’t have to have these huge increases that sensationalize the whole issue.”

 

 

We reached out to Chamber Member Jason Kingston, partner at the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, to get his perspective on this latest minimum wage hike:

 

Q.  What do you see as one of the biggest impacts raising Ontario’s minimum wage will have on businesses?

 

A.  Minimum wage increases are always a hot-button topic, with researchers and think tanks releasing contradictory articles and papers ranging from an increase causing either complete economic collapse or being the gateway to an economic utopia. That being said, the largest impact on businesses will be that those who rely on minimum wage earners as their employment pool will need to plan on how they are going to absorb the additional cost.

 

Q.  Are most businesses prepared for this minimum wage boost?

 

A.  I would say that many small businesses are not prepared. Could they have been? Undoubtedly. If a business is dependent on the portion of the labour pool who earn the minimum wage, then that business should always be prepared for increases. I think if you look back over the last decade, it’s easy to see more momentum towards increasing minimum wages and aiming towards a living wage, which is still projected as being much higher than the newly increased minimum wage point.

 

Q.  Could the Province have implemented a minimum wage increase in another way?

 

A.  An increase in the minimum wage does make sense, though the extent of the increase can be argued. The average wage increase, across the Ontario labour market in 2022 has been pegged by many as approximately 4%.

A minimum wage increase is an easy solution for the government. It allows them to say that they’re doing their part to combat poverty and wealth inequality. But ultimately it puts the burden on employers, not the government itself, and it still falls far short. For example, under the increased minimum wage the monthly gross income of a full-time employee will be about $2,800. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in our region is $1,950 per month. It isn’t hard to see the challenges here.

I think there are larger issues surrounding minimum wage and its purpose and policy reasons which the government should examine.

Common alternatives to minimum wages which are commonly discussed are introducing more collective bargaining options for employee groups, introducing a universal basic income or other government supports for low-income individuals, etc., but these also introduce challenges and differing opinions.

 

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