Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“The key to being a good manager is to keep the people who hate me away from the people who are still undecided” — Casey Stengel

London lands new pasta production facility

London will soon be home to a major pasta production facility, the LEDC announced on Wednesday. Italian pasta maker Andriani S.p.A. plans to build a 50,000-square-foot gluten-free production facility — their first in North America — in London’s Innovation Park. The plant will be up and running in the next year and a half and will support 50 jobs at first. “The fact that Andriani has chosen our city as the future home of its first ever facility in North America is a testament to our industrial land strategy, and just the latest example of our increasingly diverse economy,” said Mayor Josh Morgan.

The upshot: Observers of London’s growth in the agri-food sectors are pointing to this deal as another example of its strength of late. “London has firmly established itself as a leader in food and beverage processing. We now have close to 10,000 people who are employed at over 90 companies within this cluster,” said LEDC president and CEO Kapil Lakhotia. Good news, too, to be landing productive industries as economic headwinds and changing workplace demands in white-collar sectors like tech persist. “We‘ve certainly developed a unique niche and reputation for food and beverage processing,” Lakhotia told Global News. “As you can imagine, every industry cluster is prone to economic cycles, but food tends to be very resilient, and historically, that’s proven to be accurate.” 

Read more: Global News

No permit, no worries. Reptilia plans to open with exotic animals

After a long, spikey debate, over multiple committees and councils at city hall, London officially rejected a bid to give a bylaw exception to Reptilia so it can bring exotic reptiles to a zoo it is opening at Westmount Commons. Council voted nine to six against a pair of bylaw amendments requested by Reptilia that would have given it an exemption from the city’s exotic animal control bylaws. Opinions were split among city officials: those in favour called it a tourism draw and a jobs-creator, while those against were concerned about liability and questions over the zoo’s accreditation. The vote means that Reptilia cannot re-apply to the city for the exemption for at least one year.


The upshot: If you think this story is slithering away, think again. Reptilia’s legal representation says the zoo will open with exotic animals, city politicos be damned. “We’re going to open on the basis we are permitted to do so,” Michael Lerner, commercial litigation specialist and partner at Lerners LLP told the Free Press yesterday “We believe we are exempt . . . because we are provincially licensed and a private zoo.” According to Lerner, Reptilia ― which also has zoos in Whitby and Vaughan ― will open in London next month with a mix of native and exotic animals. “I don’t know what is going to happen, we may get some pushback and charged (by the city) under the existing bylaw or alternatively be recognized we are exempt because of our provincial licence and not interfered with,” Lerner said. “We will have to wait and see.”

Read more: London Free Press

Popular Asian supermarket closure leaves hole in market

A large Asian supermarket located at the London Mall (Oxford Street and Wonderland Road) is closed for good. Food Island Supermarket, a popular place to shop for Asian ingredients and affordable produce, has now been shuttered after a couple months of speculation they were either moving or winding down operations. By late last week it was confirmed that they were permanently closing. The closure comes as rumours swirl about T&T, another popular Asian supermarket chained owned by Loblaws, is coming to town — but no firm announcement on that has been made yet.


The upshot: The closure of one individual supermarket might not be huge news, but this one is reverberating throughout the Asian-Canadian community in town, as Food Island stocked many things that were hard to find in Western grocery stores. “It’s where I find the ingredients for soups and stews,” Arale Vallely, the business manager for the London chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, told the CBC. Other Chinese Canadians said that they had chosen to live near Oxford and Wonderland because of the supermarket nearby. It was also a reliably cheap source of produce — another loss to area residents as grocery bills continue to bite. The closure leaves two Asian-focused grocery stores in town ― United Supermarket at the corner of Adelaide Street and Victoria Street and Superking Supermarket in Westmount Mall.

Read more: CBC London



You cannot bore people into buying your product.


Cannabis Wiki launches Weedpanion consumer platform

Local cannabis media company Cannabis Wiki announced the launch of Weedpanion, an “easy to use platform [that] helps cannabis consumers find the cannabis they want now, in real time, while helping brands save time and drive a clear path to customer purchase.” The tool allows brands to direct their customers to stores offering their products with a single link, including real-time pricing. “We’re fueling the consumer-path-to-purchase in real-time while taking all of the leg-work and heavy lifting off of lean, and often under-resourced marketing teams,” saod Derrick Berney, CEO & CTO of Cannabis Wiki. “Our simple and easy embed technology alone is a real game-changer for brands that want to drive cannabis consumer purchases and revenue.”


The upshot: In a nutshell, the tool is aiming to bridge a long-standing gap between the brand marketers of cannabis products and the retail stores ― Cannabis Wiki claims that nearly three-quarters of all cannabis brands are not pointing their customers to where they can actually purchase their products in their marketing, and a tool that essentially makes that connection for them should be welcomed. It also comes as retailers in Ontario’s cannabis market struggle with declining per-store sales. (There have been many rumblings and accusations of cannabis licensed producers playing favourites with retail companies in Ontario when it comes to products and marketing, leading to complaints that independent operators are getting squeezed out by chains, so how this gets used will be an interesting story to track.) 

Read more: Cannabis Wiki

Factory Bucket secures new investment from 519 Growth Fund

Factory Bucket and the 519 Growth Fund have inked an investment deal worth $200,000 to help grow Factory Bucket’s latest product, an app called Cohesiv that uses no-code technology to optimize production schedules without traditional software development. Cohesiv brings digital tools to things like production scheduling, supply chain management, inventory tracking and other industrial uses. “In addition to growing a great company right here in London, Factory Bucket’s Cohesiv technology stands to help our Southwestern Ontario manufacturing sector in a similar manner,” said 519 Growth Fund partner Brian Foster. “Just look at the impact they’ve made already in a few short years.”


The upshot: When the 519 Growth Fund launched in late 2021, they talked a lot about funding local businesses that had significant potential but might not be the sexiest to investors. Factory Bucket fits that bill ― a company specializing in cloud-based apps to enhance the manufacturing industry, with obvious applications in the SME production economy. “It struck me as ridiculous talking to subject matter experts and job shop managers who’ve spent small fortunes in software implementations over the years, yet they’re still managing their shop floor with a whiteboard or single spreadsheet,” said Factory Bucket CEO David Uram. “It’s our mission to improve and revolutionize production managers’ and front-line production staff’s experience.” This latest investment brings the total funds raised to $1.3 million for Factory Bucket, which launched Cohesiv in late 2022.

Read more: LEDC

Libro Credit Union appoints new president and CEO

Libro Credit Union has announced its new president and CEO: Shawn Good (pictured), the former president and CEO of SaskCentral and Prospera Credit Union in Western Canada. “I am excited to welcome Shawn Good to Libro ― and back to his roots in Southwestern Ontario,” said Jacquie Davison, chair of Libro’s board of directors. “Shawn was an outstanding candidate in an impressive field and comes to Libro with more than 25 years of experience in financial services.” Good will take over the role starting in May. “I’m both grateful and honored to partner with Libro to advance their purpose, vision, and impressive legacy serving owners and communities across southwestern Ontario,” Good said in a statement. “I’m excited for the opportunity to leverage my values, experience, and passion for serving Owners, as head coach at Libro,” he said in a statement.


The upshot: With long-time president and CEO Stephen Bolton officially stepping down in early March, Libro appears to have found a successor with deep reach into the credit union system in Canada, with stints at multiple similar operations. Of his experience, Davison said: “As a courageous and respected figure in the credit union system, Shawn is the ideal person to lead Libro forward through times of accelerated change.”

Read more: Libro Credit Union

Dispatch: February 17, 2023

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

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