Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“If you would like to know the value of money, try to borrow some.” — Benjamin Franklin

source image

Downtown London urges city to rethink core-area strategy

The Downtown London BIA is calling on the city to step back and rethink its long-term approach to downtown. In a lengthy letter, the BIA urged the city to create a new Core Area Business Unit at city hall, with a director who’d be tasked with creating a long-term visionary plan. “A long-term strategy for what the city now calls the Core Area does not exist, and downtown has not had an updated visionary plan since 1998’s Downtown Millennium Plan,” the BIA writes. The issues are well-known, and common in most cites now: downtown is struggling to attract the investment it once could, office workers aren’t returning in pre-pandemic numbers and homelessness is an increasingly visible issue. The BIA estimates that the resulting drop in property values will mean a $3.2 million shortfall for the city in lost tax revenue in 2023, with steeper losses to come in 2024. “This is a time to regroup, refocus and develop a more fulsome vision and plan, and fully commit to its implementation for the next 15 years, to reverse the downward spiral of the heart of our city.”


The upshot: Calling it a “downward spiral” is certainly stronger language than we’ve heard publicly from group, which is clearly growing more frustrated with the state of downtown. Their call for a new city department focusing on downtown revitalization and homelessness is something other Canadian cities have done in various forms and might be something the city is interested in pursuing, if only to maintain good relations with a downtown business community anxious to see some change. A long-term strategy is probably a positive direction to head in ― but these are problems vexing cities globally, and whether a dedicated city department would be able to make much more progress is another matter. 

Read more: Downtown London | CTV News London

Annual Business Cares Food Drive kicks off

With London Food Bank use up over 40 per cent, the Business Cares Food Drive marked the kick-off of its annual holiday season campaign at an event at RBC Place London on Thursday. More than 700 businesses in the London region take part by collecting food and money in December at a variety of events and within their individual operations. “Last year, the heart of our community came shining through, despite the challenges they have faced,” said Wayne Dunn, Business Cares campaign chair. “Though we continue the road to more normalcy, there continues to be significant challenges in our community. Rapid inflation and a continued shaky economic environment have hit our area hard resulting in need of support.”


The upshot: Like most food banks across the province, the London Food Bank is feeding more people than ever before ― and many of them are first-time users. “The need is up 43 per cent over the same period last year and up 91 per cent over two years ago,” said Glen Pearson, who along with his wife Jane Roy (pictured with Dunn), are the longest-serving food bank directors in the country. “This is the hardest Christmas for any food banks in Canada, including us.” Last year, the drive received a record total of 595,000 pounds worth of food donated from the London community. “This year, with what our world and city continue to go through, there will be no goal,” Dunn said. “The business community will be asked to give what they can ― and only if they can.” 

Read more: CTV News London | Business Cares

Hyland Cinema calls for help to prevent theatre from going dark

The Hyland Cinema, the city’s only independent cinema, is at risk of closing down if it doesn’t get financial support, its owners say. Increased costs, a mortgage on the property and decreased post-pandemic revenues are all to blame, as is the impending repayment of its Canada Emergency Business Account loan from the pandemic. “With everything coming due, kind of all at once, it is tough,” co-owner Moira Adlan told CTV News. They admit that they will have to consider selling if they don’t get help from public funds or increased business (attendance is at about 50 per cent of pre-Covid numbers). “We’re asking people to come back and see the films,” Adland said. “We do have great films. Please bring someone with you, bring your group and have some fun.”


The upshot: The Hyland isn’t alone among struggling indie theatres in Canada. The Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors says that independent theatres “are in crisis” and are helping lobby governments for a piece of public arts funding to keep indie theatres afloat. “Independent cinemas hold value, no matter what films they are showing,” the organization says. “There is a need for emergency relief for cinemas who are particularly feeling the crunch.” Long-time Hyland guests and employees are also out trying to drum up support. “People in London, Ontario need a movie theatre like this,” tweeted former employee turned film industry worker and movie podcast host Josh Lewis. “It’s a wonderful place, and one of the last true old-school Canadian movie palaces still doing any kind of 35mm or rep programming.”  

Read more: CTV News London | Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors

TechAlliance crowns winners of 2023 London Innovation Challenge

Late last week, TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, aided by a judging panel of local industry leaders, crowned two winners of this year’s Innovation Challenge, an annual prize launched in 2020 that awards local firms putting technology to use to bolster innovation. This year’s winning firms are: Broad Films, a full-service production company that helps out-of-town film producers make economical productions and take advantage of lower regional tax credits in London; and Joydrop Ltd., a video game development company that builds tools to collect gamer feedback and help with console porting and co-development.


The upshot: This year’s iteration of the challenge was based around the creative industries, providing $40,000 to each company to help scale locally made solutions that address areas of focus identified by the London Community Recovery Network. TechAlliance CEO Christina Fox noted: “These innovative companies are not only advancing the synergy between technology and creativity, but also empowering local creators to contribute to London’s economic prosperity as a rapidly growing urban innovation hub.” 

Read more: TechAlliance

From the magazine: Behind the brew

With a wholesale approach and an affinity for custom roasting, Patrick Dunham remains focused on his just-right sized business

Read more: London Inc.

What lies ahead for Home County Folk Fest?

Things continue to look bleak over at Home County Folk Festival, which this week saw the exit of Sara Lanthier, the board chair responsible for the event. Lanthier didn’t put her name forward for re-election at the most recent meeting of the Home County Guild board. “I felt like I’ve done a ton of work over these three years, and I just can’t continue,” Lanthier told the Free Press. That news came as the board was meeting for the first time, looking to form a volunteer committee to try to save the summer music festival, which was recently cancelled for next year. “We’re asking the members to step up and help with the direction of what they want the folk league to be doing in the future,” Lanthier said at the board meeting.


The upshot: Lanthier’s departure is another curveball for a board now tasked with determining the future of a nearly 50-year-old festival. Lanthier did say that the board was open to rethinking what the festival looks like ― with the ideas such as making it a ticketed event or lending the brand to promote folk events around the city all being on the table. But the first order of business, Lanthier says, is getting people on board to try and right the ship. “We need people to help those ideas get accomplished and right now, we don’t have enough people to see that through.” 

Read more: CBC News London | London Free Press

Dispatch: December 1, 2023

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

View listings here


LinkedIn Share This Email