Weekly Regional Business Intelligence
“Friday the 13th is still better than Monday the whatever.” — Anonymous
Booch moves to cans to enable country-wide expansion

Local kombucha brand Booch announced this week that they are retiring their well-known amber bottles in favour of cans, a move that is enabling them to expand their sales reach across the country, as well as into convenience stores ― a benefit of easier shipping and a more dependable supply. "We know people want to enjoy products that are better for them, but it also has to be easy to find. That’s why we decided to move to the can format. We want great gut health to be accessible for everyone,” said Shannon Kamins, owner and master fermenter of Booch Organic Kombucha.

The upshot: While the amber bottles did have a special appeal, a global glass shortage, rising shipping costs and persistent supply chain issues make the move to cans a smart one. Kamins says the cans are manufactured locally to their brewery and are cheaper and more environmentally-friendly to ship.

City set to hike price of industrial land amid spiking demand

City staff have recommended that the city look to capitalize on the soaring value of industrial land in Southwestern Ontario, suggesting that the city up the per-acre price across the board. Industrial land prices have jumped 140 per cent over the last five years, said the city’s realty services director, and there is plenty of room to increase prices without affecting competitiveness. Brantford and Hamilton both recently sold parcels of land for $1 million per acre; industrial land in Toronto goes for three to four times that.

The upshot: Selling industrial land generally sees good return on jobs, according to the city ― one estimate says it has created 8,500 jobs in the past 20 years. And there’s a decent chunk of it available: nearly 170 acres of serviced, shovel-ready industrial land (most of that in city-owned Innovation Park), and 486 acres of unserviced land. London has been a bit of a discount city for industrial land, with Guelph, Hamilton, Waterloo and Woodstock historically asking more for it.

Read more: London Free Press
StormFisher partners to deliver renewable natural gas to building infrastructure across Canada

StormFisher, a local renewable natural gas producer, announced this week that it was partnering with Toronto-based mechanical contracting firm Modern Niagara to sell RNG for use in Modern Niagara’s client buildings. The agreement “allows Modern Niagara to acquire RNG from StormFisher’s Ontario-based anaerobic digestion facility which produces biogas from food waste” and “will be available to Modern Niagara’s clients and is 100 per cent compatible with existing natural gas equipment.”

The upshot: It’s a positive deal for StormFisher, which converts over 100,000 tonnes of organic waste into renewable natural gas each year. Renewable natural gas is seen as a very promising bridge energy source as jurisdictions look to decarbonize aggressively in the coming years.

Three ways to take control of the procrastination monster
Procrastination strikes everyone, and once it gets ahold of you, it can be very difficult to shake it off. Overcoming it has nothing to do with laziness or lack of self-control and everything to do with brain chemistry and a mindset.
Western University announces plans for 450 Talbot Street

Western University has unveiled the list of partner organizations and initiatives that will soon occupy the old Green-Swift Building at 450 Talbot Street, which the university purchased last year for $7.3 million (the three-storey building was converted to office space in the 1950s and was last home to Harrison Pensa LLP). Thirteen organizations or initiatives were selected, including community organizations like 519 Pursuit, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, as well as plans for a new Indigenous art gallery and event space, a new paediatrics hub and a community video production studio. They’ll also be relocating their community legal services to the building.

The upshot: London is no stranger to the long-documented town-gown divide that can develop in university towns, so to see Western’s president Alan Shepard talk about this hub as a space for greater collaboration between the school and the community is not surprising. Having more of a presence downtown was seen as a key part of Western’s strategic plan, and “break the bubble” by exposing students to “other parts of the city.” 

Read more: CBC London | Global News
Western Fair to make full in-person return in September

Earlier this week, the Western Fair Association announced the return of the Western Fair this fall, with a full in-person event scheduled for September 9 to the 18. It’s the first time the fair has been able to be held since 2019, and the organizers are hoping that the return can mark a new chapter in London ― a hope that’s illustrated in this year’s “Happy Days” theme. (The vibe, not the sitcom.) “We want everyone to have the opportunity to be happy and enjoy a day at the fair in 2022,” said the fair’s CEO Reg Ash. "We all deserve that.”

The upshot: While there’s been a bevy of returning events announced over the last few weeks, the return of the fair feels like a special one. The two-hiatus forced by Covid was the first time the fair had been cancelled since the Second World War. The fair also announced that they were holding gate prices at 2019 levels ― a smart move as households battle rising costs of living.

Regional bus service may solve Amazon transit problem

With a new 2,000-worker Amazon facility set to open next year, attention is now turning toward the transit issue, or more accurately the lack of a bus line out to the facility in Southwold Township. There’s now talk of tapping Southwest Community Transit, a regional bus service that launched in 2020, connecting towns like Sarnia, Strathroy, London and Grand Bend. SCT is already shuttling workers from the city out to the hinterlands on a daily basis, and there’s interest in partnering with them to run to the Amazon facility, currently under construction on the site of the former Ford assembly plant in Talbotville. “Knowing Amazon is coming, it would make sense for SCT to sit down with London and St. Thomas to figure out a way to get workers to that site and also to other large employers,” said Kim Earls, executive director of South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corp.

The upshot: With gas at bonkers prices and not going down anytime soon, the lack of a bus line is a substantial problem for the Amazon facility; in other cities with Amazon centres, workers tend to depend on public transit to get to work. And on the other side, SCT is a promising ― if under-the-radar ― little transit initiative that has provincial funding through 2025. A contract to the Amazon facility could do a lot to help the fledgling transit provider.

Read more: London Free Press
Dispatch: May 13, 2022

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