Entries in Peterborough Chamber of Commerce (31)

Thursday
Feb112016

Opinion: Stop criticizing Peterborough Economic Development

By Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce

Peterborough Economic Development (PED) announced the hiring of its new President and CEO last week, and before the ink was even dry on the contract the organization was under fire from the usual suspects. 

I was at a conference of fellow Chamber Managers from across Ontario last week, and in a conversation with a Chamber Manager from Central Ontario who was leading the call for the establishment of an arms-length economic development organization in his City and County. The reaction from his Municipality - “Why would we want to do that? Just read the news and you can see what a disaster Peterborough has become...” 

Is this the reputation we want for our City? If not then perhaps we need to be a bit more circumspect in our criticism and a lot more aggressive in our support. 

The PED Hiring Committee and Board of Directors needs to be congratulated on the hiring of Rhonda Keenan. Her resume is rock solid, with 12 years of direct experience in Economic Development with the City of Oshawa. 

PED needs champions. Everyone in the local business ecosystem can play a role, and we all need to understand the very definition of Local Economic Development (LED). From the Federation of Canadian Municipalities:

“LED is multi-faceted and collaborative, leveraging inherent community and regional strengths to gain a competitive advantage. LED does not have one leader, but rather the engagement of an array of community-minded individuals, business and political leaders, and key stakeholder organizations to drive the LED process.” 

Our local business ecosystem includes; City and County Councils, Trent and Fleming, the Innovation
Cluster, the airport, Community Futures (CFDC), the Peterborough, Millbrook, Havelock, and Lakefield Chambers of Commerce, StartUp Ptbo, Kawartha Manufacturers' Assocation (KMA), DBIA, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers and the Federation of Agriculture, the New Canadians Centre (NCC), the Peterborough Immigrant Partnership, Sustainable Peterborough, the Workforce Development Board (WDB) and one of the key recommendations to likely come out of our MP’s recent Jobs Summit, a Peterborough Advisory Council on Jobs.

Everyone needs to be on board and supportive. #TeamPtbo, if you will...

It needs to be said that the majority of City and County Councillors are supportive. And since they pony up $1.6 million per year in funding, they have every right to expect accountability from an organization that receives a big chunk of their budget. To me that accountability is built into the very structure of the organization, namely the PED Board of Directors, which includes the CAO’s of both the City and County. Other than an annual report and budget request from PED, we need to question why we are providing a quarterly opportunity for criticism. PED can quote stats until they are blue in the face, e.g. "in 2014 - 77 startups, relocations or expansions, 658 jobs, over $1million in Tourism Economic Impact, over $44 million in GDP economic impact....” and someone is still going to find fault... and our “disaster” reputation will continue. We need everyone to understand that public criticism of PED is damaging to the brand of the entire region.

The PED 5 Year Strategic Plan has two key areas of focus:

 

  1. Advancing Prosperity
  2. Creating a Culture of Startups and Entrepreneurship

 

Overall the strategy is focussed on local investment and retention while continuing to pursue potential attraction opportunities, witnessed by the recently announced new manufacturer in Major Bennett Industrial Park and Noble Tech Inc.’s exciting new $20M clean tech algae plant at the new Trent Research and Innovation Park.

I see specific opportunities:

 

  • Airport. We have existing serviced industrial lots, and 15 companies who can serve as an advisory committee for our new PED President & CEO, who brings her significant experience in building out a very similar development at the Oshawa Airport.
  • Trent Research and Innovation Park. Success here will come from multiple sources: existing fledgling companies like Noble Tech, investments from targeted companies attracted by the hub, commercialization of current research at Trent, and activities of the Innovation Cluster.
  • Manufacturing. There are 50-60 local businesses that are already connected to PED through their KMA membership. With leadership like Past Chair Tom Sayer, and Chair Rhonda Barnett, who will be the first female Chair of the Canadian Manufacturers' and Exporters, let’s use KMA like a Manufacturing Advisory Committee to make connections and trigger opportunity.
  • Agriculture. There is an existing focussed and strategic Agriculture Advisory Council. Look at the funding Havelock Metal Products recently received (EODF - $136K = 12 new jobs) and Persian Empire's expansion with $113K in Ontario Rural Economic Development Funding and $100K from EODF. Our MPP is the Minister of Agriculture.... how are we leveraging that?
  • Nuclear. With the recent reinstatement of the Darlington Nuclear refurbishment we need to revitalize the local Nuclear Cluster to capitalize on the opportunity and lobby for fair and balanced procurement for the project to make sure that there is local opportunity. 
  • Tourism. There is strong tourism staff in place with an existing advisory committee, coming off a very successful Travel Media conference last year which generated significant publicity and continues to bear fruit.

 

A Culture of Startups and Entrepreneurship already exists, and the creation of StartUp Ptbo has given PED the leadership role. There is talk of a potential Business Hub in the downtown core - a central place where you can go for everything business. This is common in many other communities in Ontario. If it comes to fruition, PED and the Business Advisory Centre need to be the first thing you see when you walk through the front door.

So who are Peterborough’s Champions?

 

  • Mike Skinner, who serves on the PED Board, leads by example, makes connections, and is relentlessly positive about Peterborough. His new company, Rainmaker, could easily be the next tenant at the Trent Research and Innovation Park.
  • Marcelos Sarkis who is triggering a fledgling relationship with Brazil through his connection with the Canada Brazil Chamber of Commerce, and is proposing a Brazil Trade Mission.
  • Paul Bennett, who leads the charge for Startup Ptbo, which has catalyzed the local entrepreneurship culture.
  • Tom Sayer and Rhonda Barnett from the KMA.
  • Tony Smith and Dick Crawford, the local volunteer champions of a refurbished rail line to Toronto. 
  • The Chamber’s Sandra Dueck, who has rapidly become a strong voice for business, getting the attention and respect of local, Provincial and Federal politicians. 
  • Adam Noble, Neil Emery, Suresh Narene, John Knight, and countless others who lead the water, tech and biotech sectors.
  • Rachel Atkinson and Karen Jopling with the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture.
  • Trent Gervais at the Airport.
  • An engaged PED Board of Directors with a focus on strategy.
  • The entire Boards of CFDC, GPIC, Ptbo County Fed of Agriculture, WBN, WDB, the Chambers of Commerce, the Homebuilders, NCC, the Kawartha Realtors, the Construction Exchange, the Labour Council, and many more.
  • To name a few...

 

To repeat, “LED does not have one leader, but rather the engagement of an array of community-minded individuals, business and political leaders.”

Are you a Champion?

Wednesday
Jan132016

Still time to comment on changes to WSIB Premiums

In partnership with the Kawartha Manufacturers’ Association (KMA) and Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders Association (PKHBA), the Chamber held a WSIB Roundtable on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at the Kawartha Shrine Club.  The event was designed to inform and gather feedback on future changes as to how they will determine premium rates for businesses that require WSIB coverage. The WSIB is an independent trust agency that administers compensation and no-fault insurance for Ontario workplaces.  

At the meeting WSIB Executive Director of Strategic Policy Jean-Serge Bidal emphasized that the changes are a “fundamental shift in the way premium rates will be determined for businesses, with one of the main goals to reflect the risk and effort toward health and safety for each business in Ontario.”

Current Framework

The current framework is a complex classification system with 130+ categories and is not completely reflective of current and new industries that have evolved since the early 1980s.  There is a lot of volatility in the current system around premium rates, with businesses paying  a basic group rate and then 18-24 months later receiving either a rebate  or a surcharge based on claims. The rates are currently determined by identifying predominant business activity through payroll. 

The predominant business activity also determines into which category your business falls.   

WSIB Proposed Framework

 

  • Goals of the proposed rate framework: Clear and Consistent, Fairly Allocated Premiums, Balanced Rate Responsiveness, Transparent and Understandable, Collective Liability, Ease of Administration 
  • Fundamental Change:Rates will be individual to each business and reflect the risk that particular business brings to the system in their category
  • Categories will be based on the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), which is reviewed every five years and is more reflective of the current economic makeup
  • 3 variables from the employer will be considered by WSIB to set future rates: payroll, cost of claims, number of claims (speaks to predictability) 
  • Each industry class will have a projected premium rate and a risk band associated with it that covers 40 - 80 pricepoints, with the Class Projected Premium Rate serving as the median
  • Once a business is placed on the risk band, it’s premium will not move more than 3 pricepoints in either direction per year
  • The last six years of WSIB experience will be used in the premium equation, with the most recent three weighted at 2/3 and the remaining three at 1/3

 

In September 2015, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was part of the taskforce that worked on a submission to government, that included 7 recommendations on how to improve the new rate
framework for business.  These recommendations were to “create greater certainty for employers and ensure that Ontario benefits from an effective workers’ compensationsystem,” wrote Allan O’Dette, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was pleased to see that in December 2015 when the WSIB released an updated framework, six of the seven recommendations from the Chamber Network were incorporated into the plan.

Next Steps

Comments on the proposed framework are open until the end of March 2016.  The WSIB will be releasing updated premium rate information by the end of January and will be seeking approval of the framework by late 2016.  The current implementation date is no sooner than 2019, with a year before implementation so businesses will have time to determine how the changes will affect their business. 

Feedback?

Send your comments to the WSIB Secretariat via email:consultation_secretariat@wsib.on.ca

or

to the Chamber via email: sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca

Resources:

A one-page information sheet on the WSIB roundtable 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Wednesday
Jan062016

The messy necessity of infrastructure

Expect to hear a lot about infrastructure in 2016.  And with good reason. Canada, its provinces and municipalities are facing an infrastructure crisis on several levels.  Some of the challenges include identifying the need for new infrastructure projects, finding the money to repair the current inventory of built infrastructure, and determining how to finance new infrastructure projects.  Politically, the infrastructure plight has not gone unnoticed.  In their 2015 provincial budget, the Ontario Government announced a $130
billion 10 year infrastructure plan and during the 2015 election campaign, the Trudeau Government pledged $10 billion in deficit spending over the next three years on infrastructure projects.  

While we wait to see how those promises will be fulfilled, there’s no doubt that the condition of our built infrastructure of roads, highways, sewers, bridges, rail, ports and land border crossings has an impact on the ability of businesses in every corner of the province from -Peterborough to Ottawa to Thunder Bay, Sarnia and the GTA- to get their goods to market.  The business perspective on this issue is straight forward: solid infrastructure in our communities, across our provinces and at our border crossings is imperative to a successful economy.  

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and about a dozen other Ontario Chambers, led by the London Chamber of Commerce, took this issue to the national stage at the Canadian Chamber Annual General Meeting.  There over 300 delegates representing chambers of commerce, boards of trade and the business community across the country voted in favour of expressing, with one united voice, the significance
of infrastructure investment to the business community and the everyday lives of Canadians.

The research that went into building a case for a long term, stable commitment to infrastructures gives us a good overview of the infrastructure deficit in Canada:

 

  • Infrastructure spending in Canada as a percentage of GDP declined annually from 3% in 1960 to 1.5% by 2004
  • Around the world the average long run expenditure on infrastructure is 3.8% of GDP per year (just to maintain the current infrastructure inventory in Canada would require 2.9% of GDP per year)
  • A recent Mowat Centre study shows the federal share of spending on infrastructure has declined from 31% to 10% over the last 50 years

 

The result is a dramatic shift of infrastructure responsibility to municipalities.  According to the Mowat Centre municipalities now account for 67% of all infrastructure spending, which is up 38% from 1961.  The impact is shocking and very real as Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones pointed out in his speech to the Rotary Club this week,“With only so much money in the coffer and numerous roads and bridges in need of repair, Jones said it's hard to make that money stretch” (Peterborough Examiner, January 5, 2016.)  The County
estimates that over the next 10 years $135 million will be needed to maintain existing road and bridge infrastructure.  And while municipalities seek federal and/or provincial funding, they still have to come up with matching grants, or half the funding. 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) says the cumulative effect of underinvestment over the past 50 years means Canada is missing out on $145 billion of infrastructure.  

Current programs designed to mitigate the pressure of infrastructure needs include the Building Canada Fund, the Green Infrastructure Fund, the GST rebate for municipalities, and the permanent Gas Tax Fund, which is indexed at two percent.  However, even with provincial programs on top of the aforementioned federal programs, a funding divide still exists.  

To bridge that divide the business community is asking that the federal government:

 

  1. Increase, by at least 20 percent, the funds allocated through the 10-year Building Canada Plan.
  2. Review global best practices in public infrastructure financing, and investigate the feasibility of introducing new public and private financing tools that deliver value for the money invested.
  3. Ensure that investments in public infrastructure are targeted to projects that result in the largest net gains for the economy, and must include strategic investments in Canada’s major economic hubs, gateways, and public transit systems.
  4. Validate the effectiveness of P3 projects to ensure that all parties are able to efficiently manage those projects so that they result in a quality product that is delivered in a timely manner with a reasonable return on investment.
  5. Provide stable, predictable and equitable financing in all projects, including advance notice of available funds, criteria and application process to ensure the projects needed have access to the funds available in a timely manner. 

 

The suggested revenue tools and long term strategy in the recommendations are geared to creating a Canada that is competitive, focussed and reaping the greatest economic benefit for all of its communities. Infrastructure is messy, it’s not very flashy, not cut and dry. Repairs and the building of infrastructure can cause inconvenience to communities and businesses, but in the end, that same infrastructure allows our businesses to thrive, it creates jobs and moves communities forward.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Nov252015

Review complete on the polarizing College of Trades

The Ontario College of Trades has been a very polarizing issue since its inception two and a half years ago. In the trades, there are some who feel the College is handling and fulfilling its mandate and there are others who feel they are being pushed around by another layer of government regulation.    

The College defines itself as “an industry-driven, professional regulatory body that protects the public by regulating and promoting the skilled trades.  However it is not that simple.  On top of protecting the public through regulation and promoting the skilled trades the College is also responsible for trade classification and reclassification reviews, assessing journeyman to apprentice ratios, enforcement of credentials.  How these goals are accomplished has been the source of great tension in a sector of our economy that has been identified as being a large part of Ontario’s future economic success.   

In October of last year, Tony Dean was asked by the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to review “Issues Related to the Scopes of Practice” and the “Classification/Reclassification of Trades”.  In addition, Dean also reviewed the journeyperson to apprentice ratios for trades subject to ratios and enforcement and if any consideration should be given to Ontario Labour Relations Board decisions.  What we find in the Dean Review are suggestions to shrink the gap between the two sides.  But it is also quite evident that there are many moving parts that at times seem to be working toward disparate goals. 

“…with tensions between the College’s mandate as both advocate and regulator, [it] has made the work
interesting and challenging,” writes Dean in a letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “It is my hope the report will contribute in some way to a stronger more viable and focused College of Trades with better capacity to contribute to the economy and quality of life in Ontario.”

The result of the year long consultations is 31 recommendations, the bulk of which, 14, are on the subject of trade classification and reclassification reviews.  These recommendations offer suggestions on who should be on review panels, what evidence should be considered, and which lens the review should be conducted through.

The Ontario Chamber Network has 11 of its own recommendations to government including:

 

  1. Ensuring that the OCT Board clarify the process by which compulsory and noncompulsory trades are determined; if a trade goes from non-compulsory to compulsory, what precipitates this process and what is the transition process criterion?
  2. Ensuring that any employer representative on the Board must not have membership in a union, and immediately review the terms of reference of the Ontario College of Trades as it pertains to their independence from external influences.
  3. Determining critical success factors to measure and report the effectiveness of the College of Trades and report on the abilities of trained apprentices to obtain jobs.
  4. Ensuring the role of the College of Trades does not place undue bureaucratic processes, additional fees or hardship on the development and attraction of tradespersons.
  5. Reviewing the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades to ensure that workplaces in all areas of the provinces are incorporated in the decision-making process and institutional operations.
  6. Addressing the governance issue:  The College Board should be nominated and elected by its membership in a transparent, fair manner. Directors should represent the diverse makeup of all skills from both union and non-union trades, and include representation from both large and small business. In addition, any Director and subsequent member of a Divisional Board must include representation from both rural and urban communities. The members of ratio review and trade classification panels must represent small and large enterprises and reflect the diversity of the trades they are reviewing. 
  7. Fixing the perception problem:  The College needs to create a strategic communication and outreach plan to fill the gaps in misinformation and improve transparency.
  8. Immediately implementing a coordinated apprenticeship reform program to move to a minimum 1 to 1 apprenticeship ratio.
  9. Initiating a five-year pilot project that would see Northern Ontario employers have the opportunity to train using a three apprentices to one journeyman ratio.
  10. Implementing a strategy to aggressively reform ratios to mirror apprenticeship programs in British Columbia and Alberta to make Ontario competitive with jurisdictions that are drawing our talent away from Ontario.
  11. Immediately beginning coordination of federal and provincial funding initiatives to meet skilled labour demands through education and incentives for employers.

There are a couple of recommendations in the Dean Review that tick some of the boxes associated with those 11 recommendations from the business community.  Among them is the appointment of a roster of 

independent experts to review trade classification and reclassification reviews and that ratio review panels should also consider the demand for a trade in different regional/geographic areas of the province.  These are core issues that have very different impacts if you own a business in the GTA or in Peterborough.

“Currently, nearly one in three employers are unable to fill a job because they cannot find someone with the right qualifications,” says Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

However, as we heard in the economic outlook at Business Summit 2015 last week, where we have seen workers leaving Ontario for other provinces, there is the potential for the opposite to occur as workers return to Ontario as a result of the downturn in the oil industry.  

That being said, part of the College’s mandate is to promote the skilled trades to youth, and going forward with such a plan requires a solid governance plan that has buy in from the industry and a ratio program that is flexible to the needs of employers and reflects the varying regional needs of the province.  Building on the College's mandate of promoting skilled trades to the province’s youth is a moot point if they have limited
opportunity to practice their skills in this province.   

The province is expected to introduce legislation in the spring that will reflect the recommendations of the Dean Review.  

Dean Review Full Report

 

Wednesday
Nov112015

Creating financially literate generations makes sense

November is financial literacy month.  What does it mean to be financially literate?  At its core it means to have a basic understanding of the issues around the value of money, from investing to saving to credit and interest.  Financial literacy has a place in almost every aspect of our lives.  To that end, more needs to be done. 

Through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) policy process, the Chamber Network has been lobbying for financial literacy to be a permanent fixture in the high school curriculum, making it a requirement of graduation.  

The policy resolution approved by the Chamber Network has the following recommendations: 

1. Create a mandatory grade eleven “Introduction to Business and Commerce" course from existing business curriculum and designate it as a compulsory credit to obtain the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. 

2. Dedicate a specific section of the course to financial literacy. This would include but not be limited to personal and family budgeting, the value of credit, mortgages, insurance, debt management, and the accountability to pay. 

The OCC resolution has a very targeted approach and in the end is looking for a targeted result.  By highlighting various aspects and having such learning be a graduation requirement, the schools would be emphasizing the importance of financial literacy, just as they have done with the volunteer-hours component.

By pushing for increased focus on financial literacy we will be creating generations that leave secondary school with a greater understanding of the basics when it comes to their own finances.  It gives power and a leg up to those who want to be entrepreneurs.  

By pushing for increased focus on financial literacy we are arming our future generations with knowledge to make informed decisions.  How much do they want to/should they save for retirement?  The provincial government is currently proposing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan which will at a very basic level require employees to contribute 1.9% to the plan and their employer to match that contribution.  There are many more details that have an impact on the program. However, it’s worth pointing out that the reasoning behind this program is that people are not saving enough or at all for retirement.  Again, there could be many reasons for this and, in fact, the actual number of people not saving is disputed by various groups.  But there is also a financial literacy issue at play.  Do the various generations know about savings vehicles?  What do they know and understand about saving for retirement?  

Having a basic knowledge of financial literacy not only helps future business leaders, it helps the economy, too.  By teaching students the true value of credit, debt management and budgeting skills, the potential is there to create a more secure economic base. Student debt-load is growing, but perhaps if they understood what they were getting into, there would be more opportunity to better manage their money to begin with.  

The problems of underemployment and skills gaps in the workforce have been identified by the business community.  The provincial and federal governments have made some commitments to putting the legislative tools in place to see improvements in workplace preparation for our younger generations.  The Chamber Network sees financial literacy as one of those tools and asks that a required financial curriculum be included.  

Jobs, business, and life demand that we know how to budget, to not overspend, and that debt needs to be managed. Adding a business/commerce course as a requirement of graduation is not only proactive, it also makes sense.  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.