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, mshepley@slchamber.ca.

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Copies of a Chamber-produced gift book—”Discoveries that Matter: Simply Sensational”—have arrived at our offices and are ready to be picked up by the sponsors of this high-quality showcase of our area.

With that in mind, limited copies of the book are also available for sale, making a great Christmas gift.

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

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

Copies of the book can be purchased and picked up at the Chamber offices, 556 Christina St N, Sarnia.

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.

 

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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) have released Moving Forward: A Strategic Approach to Ontario’s Transportation Needs, a policy report that calls on the Ontario Government to develop a Long-Term Transportation Plan. To address the current and future transportation needs of the province, the report highlights three areas of opportunity that will help improve the mobility of Ontarians.

In a recent OCC survey, 60 percent of Ontario businesses rated existing transportation infrastructure as fair or poor. With much of the existing infrastructure in Ontario built in the 1950s and 1960s and nearing the end of its useful life, the OCC recognizes that the costs of investment are high, and Ontario is far behind when it comes to building new and maintaining old infrastructure.

“Transportation is the backbone of our economy, affecting the movement of people and goods and the everyday lives of Ontarians and businesses,” said Shirley de Silva, President and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. “Yet, limited transit connectivity, aging assets, unique regional needs, and a historic under-investment in infrastructure have led to a significant gap between the actual and needed infrastructure in Ontario. This has led to real challenges faced by Ontario residents and businesses every single day.”

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the OCC developed 13 tangible and pragmatic transportation recommendations for a stronger Ontario within three key areas of opportunity. This approach will help to address the current and future transportation needs of the province with a focus on:

  1. Transit planning governance;
  2. Moving people and goods by rail; and
  3. Autonomous vehicles.

The report points to VIA Rail’s High-Frequency Rail proposal as a near-term, affordable solution to moving people, reducing congestion on Highway 401, lowering emissions and freeing up the movement of freight. For years, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and RAIL Advocacy Sarnia-Lambton have been advocating for High-Frequency Rail.

Mabel Higgins and Jim Houston, co-chairs of Rail Advocacy in Lambton (RAIL), noted with interest the report’s recommendations for Southern Ontario. “The movement of people is imperative in raising our social and economic outlook,” said Higgins. “Swift implementation of this report’s recommendations could nudge action as early as the new year. Celebrating VIAs 40th Anniversary in Sarnia this summer was a reminder of the possibilities.”

The Chamber’s Shirley de Silva pointed to the importance of transportation infrastructure to the business community. “Fully half of Ontario businesses view this issue as being critical to their competitiveness,” she said. “Moving forward, the province needs a plan that is strategic, provides value for public dollars, optimizes existing assets, leverages the private sector and technology, and takes into account the unique needs of our province.”

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the OCC have been active on the transportation file for years, looking at transit and transportation governance, the use of rail for the movement of both people and goods, and the province’s autonomous vehicle readiness. Their recent policy report on transportation makes the case for a Long-Range Transportation Plan that can deliver a strategy for better managing the province’s interconnected transportation assets and serving the needs of both Ontario businesses and residents.

The full report from the OCC can be seen HERE.

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Last week we began a series of articles outlining various initiatives the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is engaged in. This week the focus is on improving and revitalizing the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport, which is owned by the City of Sarnia.

After hearing from the business community that flight cancellations were becoming a problem, the Chamber decided that something must be done. The airport is a community asset and an economic building block in need of a development strategy.

With that in mind, the Chamber called a meeting of representatives from the City of Sarnia, the operator of the airport (Scottsdale Aviation) and Tourism Sarnia-Lambton to see what could be done. Since that meeting, several key accomplishments have resulted:

  • The City of Sarnia announced it would develop a master plan to improve the airport facilities and its marketing strategy. The Chamber of Commerce was acknowledged as a lead partner in the initiative.
  • The City, with the Chamber’s support, conducted surveys and consultation sessions over the summer to seek input on the master plan.
  • The City hosted one of our most popular Business After 5 events of the year at the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport. The evening included a behind the scenes tour of the terminal, the opportunity to meet with an Air Canada representative, and a draw for $1,000 Air Canada travel voucher.
  • Air Canada announced it would replace its use of the 18-seat Beechcraft with 37-seat Bombardier Dash-8s.

The Chamber plans to review the airport management plan when it is presented to Sarnia City Council in the coming months.

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We often refer to board members at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. But who are these people? What’s their background and what’s their vision for an organization that has been helping local businesses grow for more than a century?

This week we introduce Ryan Bell, who began his career as a lawyer after graduating from Western Law and joining GMSB—formally known as George, Murray, Shipley & Bell LLP.

Not unsurprisingly, the “Bell” in the firm is his father, D’Arcy Bell. And equally unsurprising is the fact that the firm has been a Chamber member “for longer than anyone can remember,” says Ryan, who became a board member at the Chamber in 2015 and is currently first vice chair.

A “born and raised” Sarnian, Ryan first attended King George Public School, then Northern Collegiate. He then went to McMaster University for his undergraduate degree (in philosophy).

In his youth, he was active in local minor sports, most notably curling, in which he achieved success at the regional and provincial level representing the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club and Northern.

He worked as a summer student for several years at GMSB before joining the firm as an associate upon his call to the Bar in 2014.

Not unlike his father, Ryan is focused in real estate, wills and estates, corporate/commercial, and municipal law, and he looks forward to forging long-lasting relationships with his father’s clients as well as new ones.

Ryan is married to Lila Palychuk, who is an accountant at MPW Chartered Professional Accountants. His younger brother, Graham, is a financial adviser at Barill & Company in Sarnia, and Ryan’s mother, Janis, is a retired nurse.

Outside of work, Ryan is an avid home cook and enjoys many outdoor pursuits. He also has a passion for reading, writing, indie music, and video games. 

In addition to his role as a director on the board of the Chamber, Ryan serves as Chair of the Sarnia Lambton Children’s Aid Society and also sits on the board of the Dow Centre for Youth.

Ryan believes the highest priority of the Chamber is implementing the new strategic plan that was adopted in 2018, one that looks to meet the challenges facing Chambers across Canada by restructuring memberships, engaging youth, embracing technology, and (as always) helping members grow their business in a changing world.

“I believe that we have to be progressive and inclusive in order to foster a vibrant business community moving forward,” he added.

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Applications are now being accepted from members interested in taking an active role on the board of directors of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Past appointees are also invited to seek reappointment by renewing their applications.  Application forms and additional information regarding the board can be obtained by contacting Shirley de Silva, president & CEO.

To assist the Nomination Committee, please provide (in addition to your application) a resume outlining your background and how your experience would benefit the Chamber.  Special consideration may be given to those who are members of underrepresented groups.

Interested members are invited to submit an application with an attached resume by mail to the Chamber’s office at 556 N Christina St, Sarnia, ON  N7T 5W6 or by email at sdesilva@slchamber.ca

THE DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS 4:00 p.m., January 5th, 2019

Ryan Bell
Chair, Nominations Committee

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Businesses in Sarnia Lambton are being negatively impacted by the lack of a Federal Government strategy around broadband improvements, says the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

That message comes in the wake of an Auditor General of Canada report that asserts the Government of Canada has not effectively monitored and created a long-term strategy to address broadband internet gaps for businesses and Canadians in rural and remote areas.

“It is critical that the Government address their plan to support rural communities so that we’re not disconnected from the global economy and rest of Canada,” said Shirley de Silva, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “Affordable high-speed broadband is holding back farmers, manufacturers, innovators and educators in our area.”

The CRTC, in its Telecommunications and Monitoring Report, 2017, estimates that only 39% of rural businesses and communities had access to high speed (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload), while 13% were lacking access to minimum download speeds over 5 Mbps.

While recent initiatives like the $500 million investment into the “Connect to Innovate” program have created partnerships and outcomes, the Auditor General concluded that the CRTC did not ultimately implement the program criteria in a way that ensured the maximum expansion in rural and remote communities.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is working with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network to advocate for several recommendations that will address connectivity through a strategy that supports private internet service providers, supplement infrastructure gaps and encourage new technologies like 5G mobile networks.

The Chamber has also called on the Provincial Government to develop a provincial long-term broadband strategy that includes funding for connectivity to the most rural and remote areas where it is currently cost-prohibitive while setting speed and reliability standards.

Recommendations of the Canadian Chamber network: 

1)    Develop a long-term strategy that identifies required resources and timelines for high-speed internet access in all underserviced communities in Canada, focusing on the deployment of wired broadband in consideration with other promising technologies.

2)    Accelerate the deployment of 5G technology by removing barriers to 3.5GHz spectrum allocation and access to 5G compatible devices by incenting users to upgrade legacy mobile and IoT devices; i.e. through an initiative similar to the Energy Star Program.

3)    Ensure that any strategies should rely on market forces to the maximum extent possible, and that government should provide subsidies and investments only when market forces alone are unlikely to achieve economic and social objectives.

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In what will be the first in a series of articles designed to “spread the word” about what the Chamber is working on to help build key business sectors, this week we are focusing on one project: enhancing Sarnia-Lambton’s international gateway and trade sector.

The Chamber aims to increase trade and develop the transportation, distribution and warehousing sectors by designating Sarnia-Lambton as a “Foreign Trade Zone Point,” much like in other border communities such as Windsor-Essex and Niagara. The FTZ status would effectively result in a one-window service helping businesses access tariff and tax exemptions on goods that are imported, stored, manufactured, assembled and then exported again.

“Such materials and goods can generally be stored, processed or assembled in the FTZ for re-export (in which case taxes and duties generally would not apply) or for entry into the domestic market (in which case taxes and duties would be deferred until the time of entry),” according to the Finance Department’s website.

A Trade Corridor Task Force was formed to help the Chamber apply for the FTZ designation and look at other ways to develop these sectors. Other initiatives they are working on include designing educational and training programs and taking steps to attract a distribution centre. Ultimately, the Chamber would like to see the development of a multi-modal port in Sarnia-Lambton to facilitate global trade.

Sarnia-Lambton is already a significant gateway to trade due to its location on NAFTA Superhighway and being the second busiest border crossing for commercial traffic in North America.

Look for more details in future issues of the newsletter on how the Chamber is working to improve the local business climate.

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