Monthly Archives December 2018

When Karen Fischer first arrived in Sarnia a little over a year ago, it was for family reasons.

But with her background in business and management, Fischer’s knowledge and experience have made her extremely portable, which means as a partner in RK Fischer & Associates she continues to build business relationships throughout Canada and beyond.

As a member of the board of directors at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, Fischer is also giving back to our community, offering insights into best practices in business and a unique perspective.

Having built a career that has included marketing, sales management and executive roles at some of Canada’s leading telecom and software companies, Fischer is also an accomplished management consultant and educator, having recently taught digital tools at Lambton College, and before that, digital marketing Durham College just east of Toronto.

Since moving to the Sarnia-Lambton area, Fischer, who works with her husband Rudy (the “R” in RK Fischer & Associates), has increased her network connections and volunteers as a member of the Chamber’s Business After 5 committee in addition to her board duties. She is also a volunteer mentor for the Cube, the incubator program at Lambton College.

We’re happy to have her in the area and grateful for her unique contributions to the board of directors.

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NOVA Chemicals, which won the “Business of the Year” honours at the Chamber’s 2018 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala, has been busy working on its $2.2 billion expansion since the announcement of a doubling of its polyethylene capacity was made about a year ago.

The proud Chamber member has marked that anniversary with an update (and a video) that highlights some of the changes that are taking shape at its new Rokeby site in St. Clair Township.

With preliminary work started in late 2017, since then the site has undergone a dramatic transformation.

Highlights include:

—A berm that was built to mitigate sound coming from the future facility.

—Trucks have delivered over 60,000 tonnes of gravel to create roadways and parking lots on-site.

—Rokeby Line was upgraded to accommodate increased traffic volumes.

—The new main access road into the site was built and opened.

—Piling work continues to lay the foundation of the new facility.

—1,200 trees have been planted and a natural woodlot is starting to take shape, designed to recreate the woodland features previously in the area before construction began.

As part of the update, NOVA officials talked about how important staying in touch with the community continues to be.

“Being a good neighbour in our community is an important goal for us. With construction ramping up, our desire to achieve this goal is stronger than ever. Our Good Neighbour Program establishes our specific commitments and actions to manage the impact of our construction activities. We and our contractors are all committed to strategies that proactively consider impacts and opportunities for stakeholders and build positive community relations.”

NOVA officials say they expect to be completing on-site parking lots and roadways and delivering cement to progress foundations. They will also be continuing with tree planting and the beginning of equipment deliveries, including structural steel.

The company has produced a YouTube video, which can be seen below, to show how construction is progressing.

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When we say the pace of change is accelerating, we mean that in many sectors, critical foundations of industry structure—the economic fundamentals, the borders of industries, the value of different assets, even the types of competitors—are rapidly shifting.

Every December, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce predicts the issues, opportunities and outlook for the year ahead in our Crystal Ball Report. We gather insights from the people on the ground who are running businesses, creating jobs and wealth, but also living through Canada’s economic challenges.

At the global level, our members expressed difficulties navigating an environment where economic ties, trade routes and growth rates are constantly in flux. The longterm trend toward global economic connectivity appears to be stagnating, if not reversing. Total capital flows declined from 21.4% of GDP in 2007 to 6.9% of GDP in 2017. The growth of trade compared with the growth of GDP slowed in 2018 and is projected to continue to decline next year. The implications for Canadian business are profound as they contribute to economic uncertainty and have the potential to disrupt global supply chains, capital markets and labour mobility over the long run.

At the national level, it appears likely that the Canadian economy is poised for late-cycle growth in 2019 and beyond. IMF anticipates Canadian economic growth will hover around 2.1% in 2018 and 2.0% in2019. Deloitte projects a decline to 1.4% growth in 2020. At the same time, the Canadian economy is in the process of a lagging structural transition from growth driven by consumption and housing activity to export-led growth and business investment.

Rising interest rates and a deteriorating fiscal position are projected for 2019. Canadian businesses should take note as this will have important implications for growth prospects, employment costs, debt servicing and investment decisions. At the firm level, change cycles and product cycles have been compressed, creating an operating environment driven by new technologies and competition. Not only is the speed of change getting faster, markets are able to adopt new technologies faster. Software, big data, social media, mobile devices, cloud and application programming interfaces are among the newest internet trends that allow businesses to have more innovation opportunities and more new channels they can leverage. These technology drivers are forcing a dramatic acceleration in what businesses can and should do to remain competitive and relevant. As new technologies are created at an increasingly faster pace and as they are adopted at record speeds by markets, we believe a first-mover advantage will be amplified as change continues to come at a breakneck speed.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that Canada fosters an agile regulatory system so our businesses can move fast and create tax and fiscal policies that spur business investment in the technology and skills needed for our businesses to succeed.

The world is moving fast and the economy is changing rapidly. While the degree of change can be uncomfortable or even destructive, it can also contain the seeds of opportunity. The uncertainty created by the accelerating pace of change begs caution, but ultimately fortune will favour the bold firms and governments that can seize upon the speed of the turning moment.

The above column was produced by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact

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As we continue our series on various initiatives that the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is focused on, this week’s update is on work being done by staff and volunteers on ways to improve development services, a key need for any municipality committed to growth.

This group seeks to serve as a liaison between members and levels of government that will ultimately facilitate development. Strengthening the relationship that exists between business and government is a key priority.

With that in mind, members of the group have met with the City of Sarnia’s planning and building department and received updates on what the City has done to improve their process.

Discussion of issues such as the Commercial Vacancy Rebate, a proposed Destination Marketing Tax, economic development activities and a survey of members to determine their priority needs has also been part of a strategy undertaken by this group.

The group has also identified new ways of effectively measuring the effectiveness of progress being made by area municipalities and drafted input to local government, all with a view to advocating on behalf of members who see further improvements as being necessary.

A continuing dialogue remains one of the central themes of this group along with identifying potential incentives that local government can bring to the table to facilitate growth.

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Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has responded to Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce officials on a request for the government to create a national bioeconomy framework and continue to support bioindustrial companies and projects through business accelerators and venture capitalists.

Minister Navdeep Bains said the government is incorporating the input of the Chamber and its members into its action plans.

“The Innovation and Skills Plan adopts a multifaceted approach,” said Bains in a letter to Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva and Board Chair Charles Fisher. “In particular, innovation support programs were expanded to new areas, including bioscience industries, as part of the Strategic Innovation Fund, and investments for the clean technology sector were increased substantially.”

Bains also pointed to the government’s $1.89 million in spending around transforming bio-mass into value-added products, including advanced biofuels.

He reminded business leaders, through his letter, of last January’s launch of the Clean Growth Hub. That initiative has a mandate to help clean technology producers and users navigate clean technology programs.

Bains suggested that members email the Hub’s team of experts if they would like to receive more information about the Clean Growth Hub.

Shirley de Silva said it’s important that the Chamber initiate discussions such as this on an ongoing basis to remind government officials at all levels of the views of business.

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As part of a continuing series of articles on various initiatives that the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is working on, this week’s update is on a project to connect businesses with international students and graduates.

Like many other rural communities in Southwestern Ontario, Sarnia-Lambton is facing a demographic shift. The population is getting older and as people retire, it will be harder to find qualified people to hire and take ownership of businesses.  There is a pressing need to attract and retain young entrepreneurs and families.

Fortunately, over 1,000 international students choose to come here each year to attend Lambton College. Many of these students already have some form of post-secondary education and business experience. How do we connect these students with local job and investment opportunities once they graduate?

This is a question that the Chamber has set out to answer. Working in partnership with a number of other local agencies, the Chamber has secured a grant to identify how it can connect these students and graduates with local businesses that have particular skills gaps and succession needs.

“We are excited to be taking steps to encourage students who come here seeking a better future to consider becoming part of our community on a long-term basis,” said Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva.

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Still on the hunt for a very special holiday gift for someone? We have a great suggestion in the form of a Chamber-produced gift book—”Discoveries that Matter: Simply Sensational”—that’s now available for sale at our offices.

Sponsors have already picked up their copies of this remarkable production but we’ve set aside a limited number of copies for general sale.

They are priced at $50 plus 5% book tax for one copy, $40 plus 5% book tax each for two copies, and $30 each plus 5% book tax for three copies. Purchases at this discounted rate must be made at the same time and through the Chamber offices only.

“We’ve had very positive comments from people who have seen ‘Discoveries that Matter,'” notes Shirley de Silva, president and CEO.

Want a glimpse of the gift book? See below for a “teaser”—a PDF of Col. Chris Hadfield’s foreword to “Discoveries that Matter: Simply Sensational.”

Chris Hadfield Foreword

Stop by the Chamber or call us at (519) 336-2400 to reserve a very special gift for someone that will appreciate this unique expression of the Sarnia-Lambton area.

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Jon McEachran, right, is pictured with his father, Ross McEachran.

When Jon McEachran returned to Sarnia-Lambton a few years ago, it was after attending university in Utah and working in the insurance business even further away from home.

With family being one of his strongest values, McEachran jumped at the chance to return home, going into business with his entrepreneur father in buying the Chemical Valley assets of Fiberglas Canada and building out Vidal Street Industrial Park, a venture that became a very successful rail logistics company.

That was 2005 and the company grew over the years, eventually expanding into Corunna with the purchase of land occupied by the former Ethyl Canada manufacturing site.

Along the way, McEachran, like his father an entrepreneur at heart, also won a seat on Sarnia City Council and served for two terms before the time crunch involved in the business made that impractical.

In 2017, he joined the board of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, not long after he and his father, Ross McEachran, sold their shares in VIP Rail.

Today, McEachran continues to exercise his entrepreneurial muscle through Stag Island Investments, a company he formed after leaving VIP.

As far as his future is concerned, one thing remains clear: Sarnia-Lambton is home and we can expect to see more action down the road as he seeks to contribute to the growth of the community.



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Maintaining a visible presence on the area’s political landscape is just part of what those connected with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce enjoy as part of their membership.

That was the case with the inaugural meeting of Sarnia City Council this past Monday, which was attended by Chamber staff.

Pictured from left are Monica Shepley, manager of Advocacy and Policy Development; David Boushy, re-elected as City/County Councillor; Shirley de Silva, president and CEO; and Mayor Mike Bradley.

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If you’re a business in the transportation industry, do you feel there is a lack of available training to adequately prepare workers?

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Trade Corridor Task Force is gathering input that may be used to design a post-secondary program and we want to hear from you.

Please complete a quick survey (available HERE) to help us understand your training needs.

Questions and comments about this survey can be sent to Monica Shepley, manager of Advocacy and Policy Development,

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