Tyler Smith is owner of the Woods Hair Salon, a Chamber member that was featured in a video produced by the SLBDC.

Recognizing that running a business can be a challenging affair, the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation, a member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, is once again holding its “WIN This Space” competition, featuring the opportunity to capture a free storefront space for a year.

This year’s competition features “double the fun” with one prize being offered in Sarnia and another in the northern part of Lambton County.

The SLBDC is accepting applications for the contest through Wednesday, April 18, with full details on its website—www.slbdc.com.

Assisting entrepreneurs is nothing new for the SLBDC as the organization continues to provide dedicated business counselling and financing opportunities.

As Don Anderson, general manager of the SLBDC, has said, providing business start-ups with the access to capital is meeting a real need in the community, a goal that the Chamber is pleased to support.

The organization secured additional support for the contest, allowing it to add a user guide it will be providing to applicants.

Applicants will take their ideas from concept to completion of a fully executable business plan, with two ultimate winners selected at live pitch events taking place in June.

A panel of business experts will judge the applicants and finalists will proceed through mandatory business training sessions and receive one-on-one assistance to complete their business plans.

Those events will be open to the public.

Partners will also be invited to support the initiative through both financial contributions to support lease costs or contributions of goods and business services to support the winners in the launch or expansion of their ventures.

Landlords with suitable locations for consideration are being encouraged to contact the SLBDC directly to discuss the opportunity in more detail.

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In a launch event held on April 9, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce officially opened nominations for the 2018 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards, the latest in a longstanding tradition that honours the very best of business in the region.

Past winners, news media, organizers and representatives from Libro Credit Union, the OBAA presenting sponsor, attended the launch event, which took place at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia, where some of the changes that are sure to make the Friday, October 12, 2018 gala even better than ever were outlined.

The link to the online nomination form can be found HERE.

Opening up nominations to all businesses in Lambton County is a first step in broadening the reach the OBAAs have in the community, creating a path to membership for those who have not yet taken that step.

“We believe the OBAA process can be the start of a journey that leads to membership,” said Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva. “Through this event, business leaders can experience first hand how being nominated for an OBAA by customers and peers can be an enriching experience, something to which both past nominees and the winners can attest.”

Two new awards—”Cool Place to Work” and “Chamber Champion”—will be featured as part of the 2018 OBBAs.

Dave Vanos, regional manager of Libro, said the financial services firm was pleased to be an ongoing supporter of the event.

“At Libro we speak a lot about the importance of recognizing success,” said Vanos. “This is something that the Chamber does very, very well.”

Vanos spoke in support of events like OBAA that highlight the success of individual companies and individuals throughout Sarnia and Lambton County.


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Do you know someone—a company or individual—that is deserving of a 2018 Outstanding Business Achievement Award?

Nominations are now open!

Click HERE to get started. Nominations for this year’s event run now through July 30, 2018.

This year’s OBAA, with Libro Credit Union as the title sponsor, will take place on Friday, October 12, 2018 at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia,.

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Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, recently took advantage of an invitation by a local Women’s Interest Network group to “spread the word” about how the Chamber is making a difference by connecting with tomorrow’s leaders.

The group, which is connected with Imperial (a longstanding Chamber member), heard de Silva talk about a career journey that took her from the not-for-profit charity sector to executive management in the airport industry to her current role at the Chamber. She also shared insights on how future leaders can maximize their effectiveness regardless of gender.

Building on your experiences and then using them to enrich the people around you is one of the best strategies imaginable,” de Silva said.   She also shared with the group on how the Chamber is undergoing a “strategic renewal” and how a “next generation” of leaders (like those in the room) can make a difference down the road.



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It may hard to believe, but the fact is that more than a few members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce tend to overlook Member Only Benefits to which they are entitled.

Kim Inniss-Petersen, the Chamber’s manager of Member Engagement and Retention, is on a mission: to begin conversations designed to correct that oversight.

Being a member of the Chamber brings a variety of benefits, from networking opportunities, discounts on products and services, and special pricing on events organized by partner organizations.

The list is almost endless. With that in mind, Kim would like to talk to you as a first step in developing a “strategy map” that could help you take full advantage of your Chamber membership.

Reach out today at kim@slchamber.ca or call her at (519) 336-2400.

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A rebate currently available to landlords who own properties with vacant units is staying in place for at least the next two years as decided unanimously by County Council on April 4.

President and CEO Shirley de Silva appealed to Council to keep the Vacancy Rebate Program in place as it represents an opportunity for Sarnia-Lambton to attract investors and entrepreneurs to the area.  The Chamber’s view came together after a roundtable discussion among members and resulted in the  Chamber’s letter to County Council that can be seen HERE.

Other presenters included Steve Park, a Realtor and president of the Sarnia Lambton Real Estate Board, and Alex Jongsma, a past chair of the Chamber and a well-known property owner.

Plans are underway to work with members on responding to vacancy challenges, taking into account opportunities that will help the economy grow.


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There are now two formal opportunities for Chamber members to exercise their “networking muscles.”

Two groups—NRG1 and NRG2—meet on alternate weeks (Tuesday and Thursday morning, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and both have limited spots available for Chamber members, says Kim Inniss-Petersen, manager of Membership Engagement and Retention.

The groups are a great way to get connected with other members on a personal level.

Each group has a maximum number of 30 Chamber members in attendance, and only one person from a business category can join. Once a spot is filled, new applicants go on a waiting list.

The size and exclusivity of the group allow for ample face to face time for referral opportunities, raising the profile of a business without competing.

There is no cost to participate in the group as it is included with Chamber membership.

Any Chamber interested in hearing more information about the Network Referral Groups can contact Kim by email: kim@slchamber.ca.

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If there’s one thing that Richard Bain has learned over several years of producing coffee table books like the one he’s doing in partnership with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce it’s that the first impressions of an area can sometimes be misleading.

“When we first connected with the Chamber, I was drawn to the water, probably because of the fact that I’m a sailor,” said Richard, who first launched his Binea Press business in 2003. “But it wasn’t long before I began seeing a much bigger picture that is being reflected in our book for this area.”

That book, Simply Sensational Sarnia-Lambton, will go a long way toward describing what Richard now sees as a much richer landscape than first imagined.

“This is not just pictures of people walking through parks,” said Richard, who began his business career in the telecommunications business, eventually turning a hobby into what has become a professional photography publishing business under the Binea Press moniker.

Richard Bain

Today, he has produced some two dozen books, including five involving various Chambers throughout the province.

Famed Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has agreed to write the foreword to Simply Sensational Sarnia-Lambton.

“All of the books we’ve produced have been about what makes the community ticks, including the businesses, the institutions of higher learning, those in the health care profession and everything that makes a place like Lambton County so vibrant and appealing,” said Richard.

With a target publication date of October and several organizations already lined up as sponsors, now is the time to act, says Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva.

“There are just a few remaining spots to fill,” she says. “We don’t want anyone to be disappointed.”

Richard adds that one group of people who won’t be disappointed are those who get a chance to hold a copy of Simply Sensational Sarnia-Lambton in their hands.

“This is a book I know people will take pride in holding as an example of the diversity of Lambton County.”

Richard said he’s also open to specific suggestions on photo subjects for the coffee table book. He can be reached by email: richardbain@rogers.com.

“It’s great to have an extra thousand pairs of eyes on what we’re creating with Simply Sensational Sarnia-Lambton.”

Partnership queries should be directed to Shirley de Silva, who can be reached at (519) 336-2400, ext. 1 or by email (sdesilva@slchamber.ca)


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Nominations for the 2018 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards (OBAA) officially open next Monday, April 9, 2018 at an event to take place at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia.

The 11:30 a.m. event, to which media, past winners, and sponsors are being invited, will be kick off a process that culminates in the Friday, October 12, 2018 gala event, also at the Imperial Theatre.

While nominations are largely shifting to an online process, including submissions once a business has accepted the nomination, paper nominations will be accepted at branches of Libro Credit Union, the OBAA’s presenting sponsor and the Chamber office.

A significant difference this year is one that is expected to dramatically increase the number of participants, that being a decision to open up nominations to all businesses in Lambton County, not just Chamber members.

“We believe the OBAA process can be the start of a journey that leads to membership,” said CEO Shirley de Silva. “Through this event, business leaders can experience first hand how being nominated for an OBAA by customers and peers can be an enriching experience, something to which both past nominees and the winners can attest.”

Look for more information on the entire OBAA process, including how nominations are going online, in future editions of the Chamber newsletters and on our website.


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Shirley de Silva, CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, will be speaking before Lambton County Council next week at its Wednesday, April 4 meeting, presenting both an overview of the Chamber’s strategic direction and a summary of its position around a proposal to do away with a property tax rebate known as the Commercial Vacancy Rate.

Details on the Chamber’s position will be presented to Lambton County Council ahead of its meeting next week.

As part of her remarks, de Silva will share with members of County Council on how the Chamber is continuing a renewal process that will help all communities in the County grow.

“Our vision, and our ongoing commitment, is to serve the entire communities where our members will do business, building on a foundation of purposeful initiatives and cooperative actions,” said de Silva, ahead of the presentation to County Council. “When we set our minds to work together, and I’m talking about the business community and those of you who your constituencies have trusted to represent them around the table here at Lambton County Council, great things happen.”


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