The Ontario Chamber of Commerce earlier this week (Tuesday, February 19) released its third annual Ontario Economic Report (OER), offering a unique perspective on the experience of businesses of all sizes across the province. Through the Business Confidence Survey, the Business Prosperity Index, and the Economic Outlook, this report presents a candid look at private sector sentiment and opportunities for economic growth for the year ahead.

“New research shows that businesses are gaining confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook as well as gaining confidence in themselves,” noted Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, which is a member of the OCC.

The entire OER can be seen HERE.

Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the OCC, said challenges relating to access to talent, embracing technological innovations, and the cost of doing business—including regulation, taxation, and input prices—remain major sources of concern to businesses in the province.

“Ontario’s overall prosperity depends on the strength of its regional economies, yet these vulnerabilities are expected to be most acutely felt in rural regions of the province,” said Rossi. “We should all be concerned that the province’s employment growth has been largely concentrated in the Greater Golden Horseshoe since 2003, while other regions have experienced slow or even negative growth during that same period.”

The OCC document is aimed at shaping and informing future public policy and will act as a reference and benchmark for debate and policy change.

Key takeaways from this year’s Ontario Economic Report include:

  • Confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook has improved. Thirty percent of members surveyed expressed confidence in Ontario’s outlook for 2019, up seven percentage points compared to last year.
  • Despite a more optimistic outlook for 2019, decreasing levels of organizational and economic confidence over the years have impacted business’ willingness to invest, take risks, and adopt technological advancements.
  • Businesses are gaining confidence in themselves. Sixty-one percent of respondents reported confidence in their own organization’s economic outlook heading into 2019, a seven-point increase from last year.
  • Revenue projections for 2019 are more positive than those of 2018. Eighty-six percent of respondents believe their organization’s revenues will increase or stay the same over the next twelve months, with only fourteen percent anticipating a decline. This represents a notable change in direction from 2018, when 27 percent were projecting their revenue to decrease.

“This year will be a formative one for the Ontario economy,” said de Silva. “Along with the OCC, we urge decision-makers to develop thoughtful policies that foster competitiveness and address the potential vulnerabilities that loom large within our province,. We need to take action and address these challenges to build a stronger Ontario for today and tomorrow.”

As Ontario’s economy continues to face many challenges outlined in the OER, the OCC’s 2019 Ontario Economic Summit will be dedicated to the question of competitiveness with an agenda that will explore how our province can lead in innovation, knowledge-generation, and trade. The OCC will be engaging its members, government and other leaders to explore these issues and develop the necessary solutions to drive forward a competitive province for years to come.

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Daniela Oana, a teacher/coach at St. Patrick’s Catholic High School in Sarnia, is part of a team that is hosting the 2019 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Boys’ AAA Soccer Champi0nship this June.

Daniela is reaching out to Chamber members with an unusual but not quite unique request: she is seeking promotional items that could be included in “Welcome” packages for some 20 teams that will be visiting Sarnia-Lambton from across Ontario.

The three-day event will be held at Lambton College and the Sarnia Girls’ Soccer Fields.

Anyone interested in discussing this opportunity further can reach out to Daniela directly by email (

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Trying to save money on your industrial energy bill? You’ll want to attend a half-day seminar next Monday, February 25 to find out details of a federal grants program.

The event, which is FREE to attend for Chamber members, takes place at the Best Western Guildwood Inn, beginning at 8 a.m.

Jim Moran, president of Simplify ISO, is working with representatives of Natural Resources Canada to present information on financial assistance for energy management projects.

There will also be representatives of registrars who will help explain the process of achieving the ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems standard.

Simplify ISO is sponsoring this event, which is being offered free of charge to members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

The ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems Standard is an internationally recognized voluntary standard that gives organizations a structured framework to manage energy.

Organizations that have implemented ISO 50001 have reduced energy costs and increased competitiveness while minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts. According to Natural Resources Canada, industrial companies that have implemented ISO 50001 have achieved an average cumulative energy performance improvement of nearly 10% within the first two years, resulting in up to $2 million in annual energy cost savings for large Canadian companies.

Members interested in knowing more about this seminar can REGISTER (the event is FREE) to indicate their interest. Attendees coming from outside the area should indicate to the staff at the Best Western Guildwood they are attending the February 25 seminar for a special rate.

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Businesses who host the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Business After 5, a monthly event that attracts hundreds of members and guests to the hosting business, know that it is  a proven method of generating buzz in the community.

With a history of creating memorable networking experiences, it could very well just be the opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Gail Ann Bondar, manager of Member Engagement & Services, would be pleased to discuss how a Business After 5 sponsorship in 2019 would work for your company.

“Business After 5 are one of the Chamber’s most powerful networking events,” said Gail Ann. She can be reached by phone (519) 336-2400 or email.


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A new monthly “casual drop-in” event is being organized by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce as part of a strategy to better connect with members, says Gail Ann Bondar, manager of Member Engagement & Services.

The first “Touch Base Tuesday” will take place on March 5. Members (both prospective and current) are invited to drop by anytime from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for this informal connection, an opportunity to put “a face to the names” of people who are committed to making the Chamber experience an even better one.

There will be coffee and treats, but even more important, a chance to connect on a one-on-one basis.

We hope you keep “Touch Base Tuesday” (starting Tuesday, March 5) in mind as you’re “out and about.”


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When it comes to making a difference, Mary Jean O’Donnell believes her career as a waste reduction consultant goes a long way toward doing just that.

Now the incoming first vice-chair of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Mary Jean continues to help drive change through her numerous clients in a business—MJ Waste Solutions—that she formed 20 years ago.

A graduate of the University of British Columbia and a former resident of Canada’s westernmost province, Mary Jean once joked that she received a degree in “garbology”—while not exactly true, it’s a “title” that gets the attention of people who may end up being clients for the work she does.

Having returned to Sarnia (where she was born) several years ago, Mary Jean continues to help a steady roster of clients reduce their operational waste, often resulting not just in reduced expenses but in adding value.

She’s also chair of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, the organization that actively promotes the Sarnia-Lambton region.

Want to learn more about Mary Jean? Lambton Shield (a Chamber member) published a podcast interview with her in June 2017.


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The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), the provincial organization that includes the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce in its network of local affiliates, has provided the Government of Ontario with 13 tangible recommendations for the upcoming provincial budget to build a stronger Ontario and create a business climate which encourages growth.

The OCC presented the submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, calling on the government to prioritize small business tax reforms, strategic infrastructure investment, and value-based procurement in Budget 2019.

The full submission from the OCC can be viewed HERE.

In an OCC survey last year, 48% of Ontario businesses indicated they were not confident about the province’s economic outlook and 61% of these cited high tax rates as a reason. As the province heads into a time of economic uncertainty coupled with the province’s staggering deficit, the submission calls on the government to focus on fiscally sustainable and long-term taxation priorities. Currently, business with an income of less than $500,000 are taxed at a flat rate. To create an environment which encourages small and medium business to successfully scale, the OCC recommends the government create a variable small business deduction in Budget 2019.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the heart of communities in all regions of the province. Yet, cumulative red tape, U.S. tax reforms, economic uncertainty, and a system that discourage growth have led to a staggering scale-up challenge for businesses of all sizes across Ontario,” said Michelle Eaton, vice president of Communications and Government at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We are encouraging the government to address these challenges, focusing on fiscal balance and smarter spending in the upcoming budget to help Ontarians today and into the future.”

The OCC is also urging the government to strategically spend in key areas that will help grow the economy and have the highest return on taxpayer dollars such as expanding broadband access and strengthening critical transportation infrastructure. The OCC also recommends removing red tape for small and medium businesses to access procurement opportunities, leading to employment, economic growth, innovation, and cluster development.

“We applaud the government’s commitment to reduce the debt and deficit as well as cut red tape by 25 percent by 2022 in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement,” added Eaton. “Yet, more work must be done to build a stronger Ontario and create an environment which encourages growth. We look forward to working with the government to support evidence-based policies that drive growth and contribute to a stronger province for all.”

The OCC represents 60,000 business of all sizes in over 135 communities across the province. The pre-budget recommendations stem directly from the Ontario Chamber Network’s policy resolutions presented at the OCC’s Annual General Meeting.

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The job market is changing each year, and it can be difficult for young people to know what to expect once they graduate high school and/or college. Also, with more pathways to higher education and careers opening up by the day, more people have opportunities. This means that competition in many areas of the job market is fierce. If you’re a student coming out of high school or college (or know someone who is), here is some practical advice on how to get started in a successful career.

The First Impression: The Resume

In many cases, your resume is the first impression you will give to a potential employer. Your resume should be memorable and eye-catching so that you stand out amongst other applicants. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, try an online resume template that will help you build a professional resume you can curate your personal information and make your own. The perfect resume will show your best qualifications, address all the questions an employer would have, highlight your education and work experience in a positive light, use keywords, and be a good length (not too long, not too short). The perfect resume can help you get your foot in the door, get you that interview, and land you that dream job.

It’s Who You Know: Networking

Finding the right job and growing in that job can be achieved through networking. Establishing an excellent and diverse personal and professional network will link you with the right people, get you raving recommendations, link you with new people, create mentorships, promote your business through word of mouth, and serve as a source for referrals. If you are a high school or college student, spend time developing relationships with fellow students, teachers/professors, staff, and volunteers, as well as maintaining an online presence. Tackle any hesitations you might have about networking and put yourself out there by joining the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and attending various networking events. Who you know can be key to your success.

Practice Makes Perfect: Internships and Volunteering

Experience not only makes you a better and desirable candidate for a job, but it also helps you grow and determine what you like to do and what you are good at. While paid jobs give you an income and provide growth, internships are an amazing tool for professional growth because they are geared toward your growth and increasing your knowledge. The perfect internship is out there to help you grow in the professional field; you just have to find it. Internships can be found through your school, social media, family, friends, company websites, and job postings.

Similar to internships, volunteering can also provide you with valuable experience. Volunteering will enrich your life and give you an invaluable perspective. In addition to the service you provide others, it will give you perspective into what you enjoy doing, steer you toward your purpose, create wonderful connections, and increase your knowledge.

Suit Up: Interviews

Once you have landed the interview, it’s time to get to work on preparing for your best presentation. Start by picking out a professional outfit that is clean and form-fitting. Before the interview, research some practice questions and develop answers that highlight your interest, experience, and goals. Prior to the interview prepare a handwritten thank you card to the interviewer(s), thanking them for their time and consideration, which you can then drop off in the mailbox right after your interview. During the interview, take the time to think about the question, breathe, and with consideration and ease answer without slang and filler words (i.e. “um”).

The evolution of the job market never stops, but some principles will always apply when you’re beginning a successful career. Be sure to craft a stellar resume and build your network. Apply for internships and volunteer to gain knowledge and perspective. Prepare for your interview(s) so that you can present yourself in the best light possible. Most important of all: believe in yourself and work harder than everyone else.

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The Annual General Meeting of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce—Wednesday, February 27, 2019—is right around the corner. This year’s AGM will take place, in the Gateway Room of the St. Clair Corporate Centre, located at 265 Front St N, Sarnia.

A networking opportunity takes place from 6 p.m.-6:45 p.m., followed by the beginning of the AGM at 7 p.m.

In addition to remarks from Chamber President and CEO Shirley de Silva and Chamber Chair Charles Fisher, board members will be formally inducted and a guest speaker—Liwordson Vijayabalan from TMRRW Inc.—will be featured.

We look forward to welcoming you at this year’s AGM!

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It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and this week we’re delighted to “formally” welcome FIVE businesses to our growing family.

We encourage you to reach out to the following:

Blackwell Cycle: James Grant and John Elliott are co-owners of this business, located at the intersection of Blackwell Sideroad and Blackwell Road, once a station stop on the Grand Trunk Railway. The rail line has been replaced with a multi-use pathway, and a few metres from this historic right-of-way can be found Blackwell Cycle. Focused on offering quality products along with knowledgeable and objective sales advice and guidance, Blackwell Cycle, and its associated business, Wawanosh Watercraft, are the antithesis of the big box, chain store buying experience. With a history going back to 1992, the business has earned a reputation as one of the area’s premier cycling and outdoor retailers. Visit them in person or online at (519) 491-1777.

Gina Marie Photography: Owner Gina Marie Robertson worked for nearly three decades as a nurse. Now with her photography business, which can be found online at, Gina Marie talks about the “one BIG lesson” that nursing has taught her: “Life is precious. Life is short. Live it; love it; embrace it. If there’s something that isn’t quite working, change it. Last but not least, DOCUMENT IT! Take more pictures of your loved ones. Take more pictures of your adventures, your milestones, or whatever it is that reaches your soul. This is your legacy. Pass it on!” Gina Marie can also be reached at (519) 542-6138.

O’tools Cart & Parts: Donald Brooks is the owner of this business, now in its 13th year. Located in Forest, O’tools is a certified Club Car dealer, specializing in new, used and custom golf carts and golf cart parts. With a summer staff of 10, the busy location on Highway 21 sells, repairs and rents golf carts for non-golf recreational and commercial uses to both the local market and distant customers. The business can be located online at Their phone number is (519) 786-5902.


BeeFound Business Optimization Inc.: Sean Iovacchini owns BeeFound, which is based in Sarnia. The business is described online (at as a cutting-edge interactive media and imaging company that captures and creates only the best aerial images and video for any project. Sean can be reached at (519) 704-0214.

Ubreakifix-Sarnia: Luke Faria is a franchise owner of Ubreakifix and plans to open in Sarnia this coming May. UBreakiFix fixes electronic devices (it’s in their name after all). From the classic phone drop in the parking lot to the tablet in the toilet, they’ve seen it all. They understand how traumatic it is when you break your favourite device and wants you to feel better the moment you walk in. The corporate website is and Luke can be reached at (647) 898-8178.


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