Entries in entrepreneurship (7)

Wednesday
Jun082016

Taking Peterborough's business voice to the provincial level

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is constantly looking to ensure the voice of Peterborough business is heard at the provincial level.  

Over the winter months and continuing throughout the summer months of 2016, the Peterborough Chamber has or will be part of three provincial working groups under the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) examining areas of great importance to Peterborough and the province.  All three subject areas were identified in the Chamber’s Top 10 Opportunities for Peterborough.  They are entrepreneurship, tourism and agriculture.  

Entrepreneurship

The timing is right for entrepreneurship. In Peterborough there has been an intentional and concerted effort to build and create a sustainable ecosystem for startups and new business through the StartUp Ptbo program.  That said, it is important to understand the tools available to business for growth.  Where are the gaps and overlaps?  

Recognizing that this is a Top 10 Opportunity for the Peterborough area, the Chamber was part of a working group examining the issues and helped facilitate feedback via a survey about the needs of entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.  We also connected the OCC with several local businesses for an interview and attended the launch of the resulting report at the Ryerson DMZ. The Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale Up Challenge report presented six recommendations to position Ontario for long-term success including improved access to talent with scale up experience, adressing gaps in the right kinds of financing, and increasing incentives to growth offered through public programs. 

In their 2016 budgets, both the federal and provincial governments mentioned the importance of scaling up to the Canadian and Ontario economies, and according to Statistics Canada small business represents 98% of all firms and created 77.7% of all jobs between 2002 and 2012.  

Tourism 

This sector of our economy is also a staple. Proof is in the numbers recently released by Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism (PKT) which show the Peterborough area welcomes 3.45 million visitors annually and that these visitors spend $358 million locally.

The OCC has formed a working group to examine and participate in the provincial discussion around a proposed strategic framework for the tourism sector.  The Peterborough Chamber is once again part of the working group on this matter and work has already begun with a submission to the provincial government on the proposed framework.  Thank you to Brenda Wood at RTO8 and Fiona Dawson at PKT for their information and contributions to this work.  The submission put forward suggestions in five areas including: improving the cumulative burden facing businesses in the tourism sector and improving the coordination of the tourism ecosystem.  

Agriculture

In the Peterborough area agriculture is a key building block of the economy, with over $400 million in economic activity each year, according to Peterborough Economic Development.  Agriculture is also a sector that is changing rapidly with the use of technology and land availability.  How we grow our food, get it ready for market and get it to market are areas of important study.  The Peterborough Chamber is committed to being part of a working group through the OCC that will be releasing a report later this summer focusing on innovation, competitiveness and market development in the agri-food sector. The OCC and the working group are committed to developing recommendations to ensure Ontario producers and processors have the tools and resources they need to continue to innovate and reach emerging markets.  We will be reaching out to our agriculture community for feedback and information on the issues that are impacting the sector. 

The federal and provincial governments have also indicated that agriculture is an important sector. The Premier has made commitments to improve the climate for agri-business and the federal government, in Budget 2016, continued with the Growing Forward 2 program to 2018 as well as $30 million over six years for advanced research in agricultural science. 

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of these working groups contributing to the narrative in these sectors.  We look forward to presenting the findings to our member businesses and beyond. 

Wednesday
Mar162016

Getting it right: A framework for "Scaling Up"

It’s no surprise to us in Peterborough that entrepreneurship is rapidly becoming a focus in our economy.  

A few weeks ago entrepreneurship was included in the Chamber’s Top 10 Opportunities for growth in the Peterborough economy.  We have seen an intentional and concerted effort to build and create a sustainable ecosystem for startups and new businesses.

What do we know about small business in Canada?  It represents 98 percent of all firms and created 77.7 percent of all jobs between 2002-2012 (Industry Canada website).  This situation is expected to continue.  

What has the government committed to on this issue?  In the 2016 budget, through the Business Growth Initiative scaling up was identified as a key pillar.  “While Ontario is home to dynamic entrepreneurs and many cutting-edge companies, the province lags the U.S. and many other advanced economies in its share of medium-sized and large firms that comprise the economy.  This is important because larger firms tend to be more productive, export-oriented and pay higher wages, on average. For this reason, the Province is taking action to help scale up more Ontario firms by enhancing access to capital and establishing new programs that will focus on fostering accelerated growth — concentrating resources on young companies that have demonstrated success and have great potential” (2016 Provincial Budget). 

What do those of us in the business ecosystem need to do?  The goal of the Peterborough Chamber is to help and be the voice of business to the province in creating a framework to ensure small companies can grow and be sustained successfully.  

As part of representing our members, the Peterborough Chamber is on an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Taskforce examining the needs of businesses looking to grow.  The OCC Taskforce is looking to support economic growth in the province by creating the conditions for firms to scale up in Ontario, clearly defining the concept of “scaling up"and the current barriers to doing so, providing constructive recommendations to government and the business community, and answering a few questions such as, how do we encourage more firms to scale up in Ontario.  

The OCC identified “scaling up” as one of the major topic discussions coming out of the 2015 Ontario Economic Summit.  According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Canada ranks as a leader, especially in early stage entrepreneurial activity.  The startup ecosystem includes over 140 assistance organizations.  However, the tools must be in place to ensure the entrepreneurial spirit translates into successful business with economic benefits. 

Part of the Taskforce's research process involves asking business owners about the challenges they’ve had with scaling up.  The goal is to gather Ontario specific data from those who have gone through the experience.  Some of the questions include identifying the top barrier to business, whether it is access to financing, talent, mentorship, peer support, new customers, markets or regulation/red tape. Those answering the survey will be asked how the barriers affected the scaling up process and whether there was any thought to leave Ontario.  The survey also asks about the ease of seeking government resources and the role of the private sector.  For those not interested in scaling up, we are asking why it is not a consideration.

Wednesday
Apr012015

Learning not just for students at Community Innovation Forum

The 2015 Community Innovation Forum (CIF) was another great success.  The Forum is an annual student showcase of applied learning and community-based research projects hosted by Fleming College, Trent University, Trent Community Research Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.  The students are from Trent University and Fleming College and this year there were 54 projects in total on display. 

I have attended the event for the past two years and this year I was honoured to be asked to be a judge for the Fleming College projects.  Fleming’s Applied Learning Projects were from four programs: International Trade, Marketing, Computer Technology and Wireless Information Technology.   

Clipboard in hand, I and my judging mates (Gary and Rob from Bell) set out to speak with the students about their projects.  We were to look at the project through the lens of innovation.  How did the students use innovation to find a solution for their client?  

It became clear that for each group innovation meant something a bit different.  In many cases it involved digital media, e.g. use of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, or a tangible such as a machine, device or a new program.  We also met students who felt innovation was simply a new way of approaching a problem.   

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “innovation” as: 

  1. The introduction of something new
  2. A new idea, method, or device  

I found that I was most interested in hearing how the students created their plan. What did they think about, how well did they know their client, how did they arrive at the solution, and how did they deal with obstacles encountered along the way?  We found some unique thinkers and some not-so unique thinkers.  

“Applied projects help to prepare students to be high performers in their careers and stimulate their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Raymond Yip Choy, Fleming faculty coordinator of the International Business Management and Project Management Programs. “Their participation in the CIF event helps them showcase their accomplishments, gain confidence and build their network.”

I hope that whether students walked away with prizes or not, they learned something about themselves, that they learned how they worked in a group setting; whether or not they have the entrepreneurial spirit.  

The Community Innovation Forum is not just a presentation of school projects.  It’s an opportunity for students to connect with employers and employers to connect with students.  This opportunity is evident between students and the clients for which the projects are completed and those who come to view and judge the projects.  

It’s an important connection to foster between Trent and Fleming and the larger Peterborough community.

A report released last fall by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce titled “A Battle We Can’t Afford to Lose: Getting Young Canadians from Education to Employment” speaks directly to the need for students to feel connected to the working world and employers connected to students.   

“We have to do a better job of preparing young people for the labour market,” remarks Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC).

One way to do that is to prepare the labour market for the students by understanding the skills needed in our economy to propel it forward and providing students the opportunity to learn those skills.  

The CCC report identifies three key areas for successful transition:

  1. Labour market information
  2. Career decision making 
  3. Work integrated learning

An observation I made as a judge is that the Community Innovation Forum is a transition point for students.  They spend months working on their project and now they have to transition from a project focus to using their soft skills such as people skills, relationship building and communication to effectively describe their project and the hard work that went into it to judges.  

A study in the CCC report from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives shows that for entry-level hiring those soft skills are most desirable.  That said, you could call the Community Innovation Forum a job interview, whether it’s for an employer or a potential client.  

The Community Innovation Forum is also the result of months of work integrated learning.  As it stands it is a great example of employer/student collaboration, but how can we improve the program?  What are the opportunities for local businesses to participate?  Do local businesses have projects that would fit with this concept and how do we open the door further to those conversations?  

Hopefully, we just did.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Feb252015

Business challenges? Here's your chance to tell Premier Wynne

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has a number of advocacy and policy events in the coming months. 

First, the Chamber Annual General Meeting will be held at the end of March.  Watch for more details and the release of the 2014 Annual Report and Policy Report Card. 

Second, on May 1st, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce will be welcoming Premier Kathleen Wynne to Peterborough.  More details on her visit will be forthcoming, but it gives the Chamber the opportunity to bring the concerns of the Peterborough business community directly to the elected CEO of Ontario.   

Provincial issues and policy positions have been at the forefront of many discussions with business owners over the past few months.  The impact of current provincial policy decisions will reverberate for years.  

Current Top 5 Issues provincially for the Chamber Network:

Debt and Deficit

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Josh Hjartarson spoke in Lindsay recently on this topic.  When comparing Ontario to other places, whether it is Europe or other provinces within Canada, we are in a more stable position.  But that doesn’t mean Ontario is without risk.  Hjartarson stressed the point that in the past 25 years, in which all three major parties have held the lead role in government, Ontario has seen surpluses in only a handful of those years.  The concern is that this should not be a pattern of which to be proud. “In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the Government of Ontario spent $10.5 billion more than it collected in revenue, increasing its net debt to $267.2 billion. Over eight percent of the province’s total spending is now devoted to interest charges on the debt.” (Emerging Stronger, 2015).  

Servicing the debt costs Ontarian’s more than what the government spends on post-secondary institutions.  The OCC and the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce as part of the provincial network are asking the government to take a hard look at this fact and make some decisions that can push servicing the debt down on the expenses list.  The less we are paying and sitting on debt, the healthier the economy can be for businesses and residents.

Electricity Costs 

Rising electricity prices are often cited as the main barrier to competitiveness by Ontario businesses. The OCC has been conducting in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in the province’s electricity sector on ways to bend the electricity cost curve.  Ontario’s decision to phase out the use of coal-fired generation facilities has branded the province as a leader in modern, clean energy. Ontario’s energy supply now consists of a strong mix of nuclear, hydro, gas, and renewables. 

However, this path has not been without its challenges. The province’s competitiveness suffers from its
relatively high electricity prices for industrial users. While minor steps have been taken since the release of the 2013 Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) to mitigate costs, further system-wide cost savings should be explored within the province’s existing energy landscape. Further, Ontario should focus its investments in areas such as nuclear and data analytics where Ontario can be an innovation and export leader and that, at the same time, can lower long-term costs to consumers.  The full report on this issue is expected to be released at the end of March (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

We also know that competitor markets are emphasizing their lower electricity costs as a reason to locate south of the border.  As a result of these targeted campaigns almost 20 Ontario Chambers of Commerce, including Peterborough, co-sponsored a policy resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce asking the 
government to be aware of this movement and develop a strategy to help Canadian communities compete.  

Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)

The provincial government is moving forward with a mandatory pension plan, the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). Many businesses are worried about the costs it will impose. The government must conduct and publish an economic analysis of the impact of this new pension plan on business competitiveness, investment, and employment. In addition, pension reform must leverage the expertise of Ontario’s world leading financial services industry (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the consultation panel last month, has
participated in several teleconference calls with Minister Mitzie Hunter, and signed a letter as part of the OCC’s submission to the government on design details.   Furthermore, it is anticipated that the Chamber Network will be formalizing its position at the network AGM at the beginning of May.  

As part of its argument, the Peterborough Chamber has consistently encouraged the government to consider that part of the problem can be traced back to financial literacy.  Our MPP Minister Jeff Leal is very aware of an OCC policy resolution calling for a curriculum change to make a business course, including financial literacy topics, a requirement of high school graduation.

Lack of a Manufacturing Strategy

In the Emerging Stronger document, the OCC believes Ontario can once again be a stable manufacturing hub. The province is home to an ever-growing number of specialized and niche manufacturers.  Peterborough is a shining example of this with no sign of slowing down.  Further, some manufacturing is reshoring from
emerging markets. 

However, American and Mexican jurisdictions are increasingly aggressive in attracting investment. The provincial and federal governments need to develop a shared and targeted strategy focused on attracting and fostering manufacturing investments in areas where Ontario can be globally competitive. 

For their part, Ontario businesses need to invest more in productivity-enhancing technology. A previous Emerging Stronger recommendation is worth repeating: firms and sector organizations need to benchmark their productivity relative to their global peers and, where they fall behind, invest more in productivity-enhancing technology (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

Entrepreneurship Strategy

The business course requirement for high school graduation is also important to this issue.  The belief is that if we are encouraging entrepreneurship as a viable career choice, then we should also ensure that these individuals have the tools for success. 

Ontarians start fewer businesses per capita than any of their provincial peers. Many point to a lack of entrepreneurial culture in Ontario to account for this trend. Further, the province should consider emulating successful programs from elsewhere that pair students with local business people to create a business, design a product, and sell it. 

Businesses also have a role to play. Business leaders need to invest more time mentoring new entrepreneurs and small business owners (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

In Peterborough, we know that entrepreneurs hold a special place with support from Peterborough Economic Development, Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, competitions such as Bears’ Lair and the upcoming
Business Summit hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. 

With Premier Wynne coming to Peterborough on May 1st, what would you want her to know about the
challenges facing your business?  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Tuesday
Dec162014

Collaborating for success: a Peterborough partnership for progress

The partnership may have been formed with a certain amount of happenstance, but the end result is a gateway to a new generation of manufacturing in Peterborough.  

The players are PKA SoftTouch, a Peterborough company and Chamber member working toward actualizing a painless needle; Steelworks Design Inc, a Peterborough company and Chamber member who developed and constructed the micro-needle’s drug capsule production equipment; and Westmount Pharmacy, the Peterborough pharmacy with a sterile facility in the Banting Legacy Hall to house the production equipment.

“We didn’t know that Westmount had a sterile facility and stumbled upon it by word of mouth from a supplier,” says Dick Crawford, PKA Chair of the Board and CEO. “With the space being in Peterborough, it closed the loop for us and signifies a huge leap forward to actual profitability.”

PKA’s small and inexpensive Micro-Needle is a unique device that lets patients inject only into the skin layers where there are no nerves and no pain. It would be used for the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

“It’s great to see the micro-needle get some real traction and take off the way we thought it always would,” says Don Barnet, Steelworks president. “You really feel like you are part of something special, developed right here in Peterborough.”

“The new drugs coming down the pipeline are a perfect fit with this technology,” says Murad Younis,
Westmount Pharmacy attesting to the need for this kind of medical device in the market. 

Crawford says they would start the production runs for the clinical trials with three employees, including a supervisor and quality control, but the facility can accommodate up to eight.  The partners are already thinking into the future.  “If it takes off and goes to market in a big way we hope to build a factory around the device.  This means a huge project for us and a big win for Peterborough,” says Barnet.  

Also helping the company find its place are the CFDC, which approved grants for research and development, and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.        

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.