Entries in Peterborough Chamber (83)

Wednesday
Jun292016

Peterborough rallies around a mindset close to its heart

Monday night Peterborough City Council endorsed the actions of a pilot project that is examining mid-size cities.  The focus of the remainder of the project will be to “strategically position Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy”. It's a mindset that connects Peterborough and its residents to the natural beauty of the area.  We pride ourselves on being a community close to nature in a number of ways.  This mindset is used to sell our community to businesses, professionals and tourists.  It's a mindset that makes Peterborough a great place in which to live, work and play. 

The project, led by Evergreen, a national charitable organization, and a local steering committee of John Good, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, Ken Doherty, Director of Community Services for the City of Peterborough, Sandra Dueck, Policy Analyst for the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, and  more recently Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough Economic Development, has been working over the past year to examine Peterborough's role as a mid-size city and how its needs could potentially influence provincial policy. 

The Evergreen Group received provincial funding for the project from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and chose to examine Peterborough, Sudbury and London to determine the needs of mid-size cities.  Mid-size cities for the purpose of the pilot program were defined as urban areas with a population of 50-500,000 people.  It was also recognized that mid-size cities play varying roles. In Peterborough's case, it is a city centre with its own autonomous economy, while providing services in health care, employment and education to the region. 

How did the stakeholder group decide to hone in on a regional area of focus around Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy?

Three meetings were held in Peterborough between March and April 2016.  The groups were put through a series of asset mapping and visioning exercises around 12 opportunities for action that could be applied to mid-size cities.  Out of those meetings, participants gravitated toward three opportunities for action:

 

  1. Develop Programs And Strategies to Better Leverage Underutilized Human Capital
  2. Build on Existing Municipal And Community Leadership to Drive Action
  3. Develop a Regional & Economic Roadmap Around an Area of Focus

 

It was felt that opportunity number one was already being serviced by the new Local Employment Planning Council and that number two would require an advisory committee of sorts and Peterborough “is flush with committees”. 

Further discussion led the conversation to a number of projects starting or underway in Peterborough relating to the green and/or sustainable economy.  Sustainable Peterborough is the lead organization helping to develop climate change action plans for the city, county, 12 townships and three First Nations.  The planned Trent Research & Innovation Park is aiming to have a green tech focus and the City of Peterborough is working on a new shaping the future document based on four pillars including sustainability.  Part of Peterborough Economic Development’s mandate is sustainability and the Chamber of Commerce and GreenUP have teamed up for the Green Business Peterborough program.  There is also a group led by GreenUP putting together a proposal to be designated a UNESCO Region of Expertise for Environmental Education.  

The next steps in the project are to continue mapping out all of the green and/or sustainable projects that are happening in Peterborough city and county and to examine other jurisdictions that have adopted this area of focus.  

The work of the Peterborough group does not stop at this opportunity for action.  Participants in the three stakeholder meetings also discussed the role of the province in ensuring that mid-size cities have the
opportunity to thrive.  The outcomes of this discussion included a desire for more flexibility and opportunity to recognize the unique role of mid-size cities.  The next steps in this part of the process will culminate in a mid-size cities forum to be held in the spring of 2017. 

The exciting part of this mid-size cities project is the realization that Peterborough, through the uncoordinated actions of many, has been travelling down the same pathway to a similar goal.  The challenge will be to use that momentum to our advantage at the provincial level. 

Wednesday
May182016

Have your say: what's ailing small business in Ptbo?

93 percent of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce membership fall under the category of small business (100 employees or less).  These businesses employ close to 8,500 people.  For the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, 96% of their membership is small business, employing over 3,800.

Recently, the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), launched Small Business Too Big To Ignore, a six month campaign to highlight the important contributions of small businesses to our communities and investigate the top barriers to small business growth. 

Along with the campaign the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers will be hosting a series of roundtables using the OCC’s recent report, Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success, which is aimed at starting a conversation about the underlying challenges that are weighing on small businesses and stifling job creation.

In the report, the OCC cites the rising cost of doing business as a major impediment to small business growth. In fact, OCC survey results show that one in twenty businesses in the province expect to close their doors in the next five years due to rising electricity prices. In addition, 38 percent will see their bottom line shrink, with the cost of electricity delaying or canceling investment in the years to come.

“Rising electricity prices is just one of the many elements adding to the cost of doing business in the province,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “The Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers are launching this campaign to take a look at how we can engage both government and business leaders in our communities in a productive conversation to answer the question ‘what exactly is ailing small business?’.”

In addition to the rising cost of doing business, the report also lists key infrastructure gaps and a lack of access to skilled workers as the top three obstacles weighing on small business. According to a recent OCC survey, 39 percent of employers have had difficulty filling a job opening over the past year and a half - an increase of 11 percentage points since 2014.

“Building a 21st century workforce that is reflective of the needs of employers in our area has been a cornerstone of our advocacy efforts for quite some time,” said Sherry Boyce-Found, General Manager, Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. “We’ve seen tremendous progress on this file over the past few years, but we recognize the need to foster greater connections between skilled workers and employers.”

The goal of the roundtables with small business owners is to identify the barriers that they face and understand how the three areas already identified fit into the equation.

“Small businesses of 100 or less employees are the core of our membership and employ nearly 3 million Ontarians, which is why we’ve decided to undertake the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign,” said Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the OCC. “The insights gained from the local chamber consultations will inform an upcoming OCC report to be released during Small Business week in October 2016. We are really looking forward to the feedback.”

Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success

Wednesday
Apr202016

Businesses asked to help cut provincial red tape

The province’s new Red Tape Challenge has been online for just over three weeks now.  The first of six sectors the government will be accepting input for is automotive parts manufacturing.  This program is a direct result of lobbying by the Ontario Chamber Network.  In 2015, the first recommendation in the Emerging Stronger document was to create a Red Tape Challenge similar to the United Kingdom. That program resulted in the UK government amending or scrapping 3,000 regulations, which will save
business over a £850 million every single year (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

The journey through the process of providing feedback starts with an overview of the sector from the province, along with an outline of the desired outcome.

The automotive industry has long been a cornerstone of Ontario’s economy. It includes 12 assembly plants, over 700 parts suppliers and over 500 tool, die and mould makers. The sector also employs over 103,000 people. By reducing regulatory burden through the Red Tape Challenge, we will cultivate a more innovative and dynamic business environment. This will help attract global automakers to produce the next generation of transportation here in Ontario (https://talks.ontario.ca/redtapechallenge).

The website also lists six areas of regulation: health and safety, employment and labour, corporate and
commercial law, environmental, land use and planning, and taxation and financial reporting. So far, almost 50 comments have come in on the 97 regulations being examined in the automotive parts manufacturing sector. 

The Government of Ontario also outlines its commitment to the process and why they have launched this program: Ontario is committed to developing modern, outcome-focused and evidence-based regulations, helping to foster an innovative and supportive business environment while protecting environmental and health standards and enhancing worker safety.  This includes identifying and fixing unclear, outdated, redundant, or unnecessarily costly regulatory requirements.  The Red Tape Challenge encourages a free and open conversation surrounding the regulations that apply to businesses in the province.  

Red tape, over regulation, whatever you would like to call it is one of the most common sources of frustration the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce hears from its 900 members.  “Removing unnecessary regulation can make a world of difference for a business,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of
Commerce. “We also know it’s important for the government to understand that it may not be the regulation that is solely responsible for creating the red tape, but how a regulation is enforced.”   

Harrison brought the comment forward recently during an Ontario Chamber Network Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park.  Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid acknowledged the validity of the statement with an example from his own riding where a trucking company was facing a fine because of a different interpretation of a regulation by an inspector. 

At the federal level, the Red Tape Reduction Act received Royal Assent in April 2015 enshrining the one-for-one rule in law.  The rule requires federal government regulators to offset the cost increases of administrative burden on business, and for every new regulation added that imposes an administrative burden, one must be removed.  The one-for-one rule started in 2012 and up to 2015 had resulted in a net annual administrative burden reduction of over $22 million, a saving of 290,000 hours in time spent with regulatory red tape and a net reduction of 19 regulations taken off the books (http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=966939).  

For the Ontario Red Tape Challenge, the comment period for the automotive parts manufacturing sector runs until May 31st, 2016.  A preliminary report will be issued on June 8, 2016 with a final report released on November 30, 2016.  

Over the next two years, the province will be looking for feedback on recommendations in five other areas: food processing, financial services, mining, chemical manufacturing, and forestry.  

More information can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/red-tape-challenge

Wednesday
Apr132016

Moving the goods takes trains, planes, and autos

There’s a catchphrase emerging in the discussion around transportation: multi-modal transportation strategy.  I have read it in a few articles, the federal budget document and then provincial Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca used it twice in a discussion during the Chamber’s advocacy day at Queen’s Park.

A broad definition of the concept figures prominently in the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006) and can be found in the work of the Interuniversity Research Centre on Enterprise Networks, Logistics and Transportation at the University of Montreal, which defines the concept as a chain made up of several transportation modes that are more or less coordinated and interact in intermodal terminals to ensure door-to-door service.  While the context of this particular definition is based in the movement of freight, it could also be easily applied to the movement of people.  You could also define it as – "anywhere in Europe…"

In the year 2041, the provincial government estimates the population of the GTHA and the outer ring (which includes the Greater Peterborough Area) will be 13.5 million people.  That is just below the current population of the entire province of Ontario.  

Developing a coherent transportation strategy for Peterborough now will serve us well into the coming decades.  We need roads and public transit to move people and things, we need air and we need rail.  If we are going to consider all modes of transportation, Peterborough also has the opportunity to move people and things via water and the Trent Severn Waterway.  

Transportation corridors are different from public transit, but both are connected and rely on each other. For example, an efficient bus system relies on efficient roads. 

By Road

The business community is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 407 to the 35/115 in 2020.  This economic link will see commerce and people flowing both ways – from the GTA in the form of tourists and companies wanting to do business or relocate, and into the GTA from here allowing our companies easier access to the vast market known as the Golden Horseshoe.  

By Air

The intentional investment by the City and County into the Peterborough Airport is paying off with innovative partnerships, companies and opportunities.  There will be new passenger service starting this summer, continued flights by Stewart Travel, 15 companies that are employers driving the local economy, and there is space for a lot more.  The Peterborough Airport is also considered a part of a network of regional airports that is tasked with defining how they could help relieve anticipated pressures at Pearson Airport.  

By Water

The Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) was originally built as an economic thoroughfare.  Today its primary role is to ferry tourist traffic, but in that role it is a significant economic driver for the area.  Are there any other ways to use the TSW for modern day movement of goods?

By Rail

The return to rail movement is gaining steam throughout the province. There are projects being pushed in southwestern Ontario and along the GO Lakeshore East line to Bowmanville.  It’s no secret that Peterborough has had a project of its own on the go for over five years and that improved freight and the return of passenger service would go a long way to further opening up the area to new economic opportunities.  How we get there is not the critical point, just that we get to the point where we can offer a freight option that improves time to the GTA and eventually a passenger option as well.  There are quite a few infrastructure dollars on the table right now.  If there is a willingness for either the provincial or federal governments or both to repair the tracks for freight use, perhaps the case for passenger rail would become more attractive to Metrolinx/GO or VIA to take on.

For its part, the City of Peterborough’s transportation master plan was last updated in 2012 and will be due for review in the next few years.  Their thinking about the future is along the same track as the province. “While the next review will also look at all modes of travel in the City, the approach to delivering transit services may be quite different as we get closer to the next review,” says Kevin Jones, Manager of Transportation, City of Peterborough. “Our planning for transit may start to focus on serving activity areas, also known as hubs.  These hubs could serve as areas to support land use intensification and provide transfer points where local neighbourhood transit services connect to a core route system, featuring enhanced service levels.   Providing hubs in locations that allow for connections to regional GO bus services or a future rail corridor to serve the City would be ideal.  Can we find locations to build these hubs so that they accommodate the needs of the community in the present, but can also be transformed as needed in the future?”  

“The province is also reviewing its transportation strategy,” says Jones.  In a meeting with the Minister of Transportation (MTO) recently, I heard the same comment that the ministry is working on a plan that is looking 50 years into the future.  Minister Del Duca also recognized that there is more work to do to incorporate the needs of mid-size cities such as Peterborough into plans for improved linkages for future employment and economic potential.

There is a demand from within our community to be operating on all cylinders in order to take advantage of the opportunity of an expected increase in population growth.  The backbone of that economic utopia of jobs, business growth, and sustainability, is a coherent transportation network that allows for the effective movement of goods and people. Supporting and building a multi-modal transportation network will take multi-modal collaboration from government.

Wednesday
Apr062016

Mrs. Dueck & Mr. Harrison go to Queen's Park

Stuart Harrison and I are just back from a whirlwind 9 hour Advocacy Day at Queen's Park. It was a day of meetings with senior government officials on selected policy issues, a panel discussion on the benefits of advocacy with Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, town halls with four cabinet ministers, and a reception with all three party leaders.   

The most important takeaway for me was that the work of the Chamber Network at Queen’s Park through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and in our home communities does not go unnoticed by our elected and senior government officials.   The ministers, senior government officials and party leaders all made a point of saying that the thoughtful, solutions-based reports and campaigns by the business community are key information pieces in setting policy.   

“The Chamber is very well respected at Queens Park,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “There was a lot of ground covered on behalf of Peterborough Chamber members, and business across Ontario.”

The Chamber Network has seen many successes over the years with this approach including recent advocacy wins with the delay of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) by one year and the removal of the debt retirement charge on commercial electricity bills nine months early.

In 2015, the Chamber Network’s Emerging Stronger: Ontario’s Path from Recovery to Growth document detailed a “Red Tape Challenge” program out of the United Kingdom.  Just last week, the Government of Ontario launched its own program based on the UK example. Businesses please take advantage of the opportunity as the program rolls out over the next two years. More information can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/red-tape-challenge

Stuart Harrison also took the opportunity to remind Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development that a part of red tape is not necessarily the regulation itself, but how a regulation is enforced that can have a negative impact on economic competitiveness. The Minister agreed and went on to tell the story of a hauling company from his riding that was fined, along with its driver, for a form with one field filled out incorrectly by their client. The Minister recognized that the time and money it would take the hauling company to fight or pay that ticket would have a negative economic impact on their business. 

The morning sessions with senior government officials took me through the tunnel linking the legislature with ministry offices to a boardroom on the third floor of one of the ministry “blocks”.  Four of us, including representatives from Kingston and Barrie Chambers of Commerce met with Sheldon Levy, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.  Our discussions focused on challenges with apprenticeship ratios and the urban/rural divide.  The continued importance of an effective pathway for skilled trades opportunities will only grow as provinces and the federal government move toward meeting their infrastructure mandates.  The group also discussed the tools and pathways for employers to access skilled talent, and maximizing connectivity between education institutions and their host communities.  Overall, the conversation was positive and recognized that the issue of skills has ties to a number of other ministries, such as immigration and economic development.

Stuart represented members of the Peterborough Chamber in a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Transportation Stephen Rhodes where the group encouraged the government to use the Chamber Network to disseminate information about projects with economic impacts for the business community. The group also talked about the need for a plan that explores intermodal connectivity (that’s essentially trains, planes and automobiles) and the balance between money for the GTHA ($16 billion) and the rest of the province ($15 billion).  The group stressed there is a difference between transit and transportation infrastructure which includes roads, bridges and broadband.  

The event wrapped up with a reception and words from all three party leaders. I had the opportunity to speak directly with the Premier about transportation and agriculture needs for the Peterborough area before her remarks to the group.

So what is advocacy? It’s about listening to our members and learning their needs and then building relationships with all parties and government officials, having an understanding of the issues, and then being able to effectively communicate the issues through various platforms to those that need to hear the message.

Our Peterborough business community is poised for great things in a variety of sectors.  Celebrating our successes, recognizing the positive elements of the framework put in place at all levels of governments and presenting solutions to inform government about the needs of the business community is a worthwhile exercise that leads to success, change, and prosperity.