Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” — Mark Zuckerberg

CAMI expanding to add EV battery production: Report

Ingersoll automaker CAMI is expanding to bring the region its first EV battery plant, according to a report published in the London Free Press. Work has started on a 400,000 expansion that sources close to the plant say will be used to assemble batteries for its BrightDrop electric vans, which recently started rolling off the line. Officially, it’s still a rumour, and neither GM or Unifor Local 88 are confirming it’s a battery plant.


The upshot: If it is indeed a battery plant — all GM told the Free Press was that it was a “cross-docking facility” — it’s huge news for the region, which has been aggressively attempting to lure such an investment. A similar EV battery plant in Windsor is expected to bring 2,500 jobs, and there’s a lot of hope that one battery plant will lead to further investment from battery and vehicle manufacturers (several of whom have been sniffing around the area for months) — which many hope will amount to a generational opportunity for the Southwestern Ontario economy.

Read more: London Free Press

Anderson Craft Ales first Ontario microbrewery to install carbon capture tech

London’s Anderson Craft Ales is getting closer to being a carbon neutral operation. The local brewery announced this week that it is the first microbrewery in Ontario to install carbon capture technology that will allow them to reuse CO2 released in fermentation to carbonate their beers, something that the company says will bring their “CO2 emissions to near zero.” The technology is built by a Texas-based company called Earthly Labs, and the acquisition of the tech is being funded in part by FedDev Ontario grants.


The upshot: Breweries are far from the most emissions-heavy industries in the world, but they do emit, and there’s been momentum recently to see carbon capture technology adopted by the industry (which makes sense —the byproduct we don’t want in the air is needed to put back in the beer anyways). “It has always been our goal to make the best beer possible, with a strong focus on social and environmental responsibility,” said president Gavin Anderson. “We’re taking a bit of a risk, being the first microbrewery in Ontario to move forward with this equipment, but if this inspires a fraction of the 1,000 other breweries in Canada to install similar initiatives, the environmental impact could be staggering.” 

Read more: Food in Canada

St. Thomas pushing for transit connection to London

With major employers opening up in the region, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston is angling for provincial money to launch a transit connection with London. “There are many more ways to get to Toronto than there is to London,” he told the CBC. “We’re only 10 or 15 minutes away from each other, and we need to correct that.” He’s planning on lobbying the province at this weekend’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference, hoping for money to launch a three-year pilot program of some sort of intercity bus connection — floating the idea of an hourly bus from downtown St. Thomas to an LTC hub in the south end.


The upshot: Reasonable transit service to London’s industrial areas has been woefully inadequate for just about forever, and with the new Amazon logistics centre expected to open this year in middle-ground Talbotville (where approximately 1,500 workers are needed), plus growing demands for regional workers at facilities such as the new Maple Leaf poultry plant among others, this is one of those no-brainer ideas that leaves you scratching your head about certain other transit investments that have taken priority. Good on the Railway City for pushing the issue. 

Read more: CBC London

Three quarters of a century after the brand launched on Dundas Street, Zellers is coming back to town

Ten years after it was bought by Target, who then famously bungled their entry into the Canadian market, Zellers is coming back. Hudson’s Bay Co. has announced there will be 25 Zellers stores opening this year. All of them will be 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot spaces within existing Bay locations, mainly in major Canadian malls, including White Oaks Mall in London. “Customers will be greeted with a thoughtful selection of design-led products across home decor, toys, baby, apparel and pets, housed within Zellers’ signature red and white,” the company said in their announcement. The company hasn’t revealed the exact date the White Oaks store-in-a-store will open, but it is expected to be sometime this spring.


The upshot: Given that Zellers traces its lineage back to 178 Dundas Street, where it first opened a store in 1928, it’s nice to see the iconic Canadian brand coming back to the city. The bigger picture is interesting to consider, too. Zellers was considered by many to be a solid affordable retail brand, and it makes sense that The Bay would want to target today’s increasingly budget-conscious consumers.

Read more: Retail Insider

Community: More than 100 London-area kids waiting to be paired with caring mentor

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of London (BBBS) are celebrating National Mentorship Month in January with an appeal for more volunteers. The local organization, which does one-on-one mentoring, along with group programs, has been in our community for 50-plus years. With over 100 children (Littles) on the current waiting list, they are asking Londoners to make an impactful decision and donate their time. According to the organization, only one in five young people who enroll in BBBS have access to supportive adult relationships, and those with access are 21 times more likely to manage their emotions well. By volunteering to be a mentor (Bigs), one person can have a significant and profound impact on the life of a child facing adversities. Bigs and Littles spend time together weekly doing things they both enjoy, and these visits help the Littles build self-esteem and gain the confidence needed to reach their full potential. 

Find out more here: Big Brothers Big Sisters of London

Tackling homelessness and social challenges main theme of State of the City address

London Mayor Josh Morgan used this week’s 2023 State of the City address to announce that the city is adopting a “bold new approach” to homelessness that would “mark the end of temporary emergency response programs” — and announced that the program is being seeded by a $25 million anonymous donation from a local family. Specifics of the plan will be released next month, but those who work with homeless people are excited, at least preliminarily, about both the new approach and the money donated to kick it off.


The upshot: Homelessness response efforts in London and elsewhere in the province have been a rocky road, to say the least. But there is a promising degree of cooperation emerging between the city and homelessness advocates that hasn’t been seen elsewhere, where the response to homeless encampments has often focused on police enforcement and shelter programs and has seen few real successes. The devil will be in the details, of course, but the Health and Homelessness Summit process wrapping up this month could be the beginning of a systemic approach to solving these problems.

Read more: Global News

Dispatch: January 20, 2023

A summary of recent business appointments and announcements, plus event listings for the upcoming week.

View listings here

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