Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” — Jim Goodnight

WSIB makes its move official

The Ontario government made London’s worst-kept secret official on Thursday, announcing that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) had purchased the former 3M Canada headquarters building on Tartan Drive for $21 million. “It’s a win for London, a win for Southwestern Ontario, that is what this is all about,” said Mayor Josh Morgan on Thursday. The new office is slated to be open by 2025 and will house around 500 employees ― 400 of them currently working downtown at the Fullarton Street office and 100 more as the workforce grows. It’s also expected to eventually bring around 2,000 jobs, according to WSIB officials and the mayor. “The arrival of 2,000 high-quality, recession-proof jobs will only further enhance London's status as one of the fastest growing and most resilient economies in all of Ontario,” Morgan said.


The upshot: The head of the WSIB, Jeff Lang, offered a brief comment on the decision to move to the outskirts, rather than to the core. “It was a no brainer,” he said. “We did not find suitable locations downtown. We think this is a win-win.” He also said that doing so would save the WSIB around $70 million over ten years. Their jobs estimates have been moderated slightly, too. The estimate of 2,000 jobs moving to town is down from the original estimates of 3,000 jobs. According to the province, the move is estimated to generate around $100 million in benefits to the city over the long term. Land also added that the WSIB will explore partnering with the city for excess land (the site comes with a total of 50 acres), possibly for industrial use. 

Read more: CBC News London | London Free Press

Local organizations honoured at the 2023 Business Achievement Awards

A who’s who of the London business community gathered at RBC Place on Wednesday evening for the 40th installment of the annual London Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards (BAAs). The awards honour business excellence in nine different categories, and from a pool of 24 finalists the following organizations took home the hardware: Mistyglen Creamery (Agribusiness Award); London Health Sciences Centre (Environmental Leadership Award); Mobials Inc. (Excellence in People and Culture Award); Front Line Medical Technologies Inc. (Innovation Award); Attica Manufacturing Inc. (Manufacturer Award); Indwell (Nonprofit Award); XO Homes (Small Business of the Year Award); Donaldson Home Services (Medium Business of the Year Award); and EllisDon Corporation (Large Business of the Year Award).


The upshot: Last year, the BAAs did return to an in-person format following a couple of years of pandemic disruption, but with over 1,000 people in attendance on Wednesday, the city’s marquee business awards event was fully back to its pre-pandemic glory. In addition to revealing the nine winning organizations, the Chamber also honoured Lerners LLP (pictured) with the 2023 Corporate Icon Award. Announced in advance of the awards gala, the Corporate Icon Award is given annually to a business that has demonstrated a substantial long-term contribution to the economic progress of the London community.

Read more: London Chamber

Fanshawe to launch EV tech training program in 2024

By 2030, estimates have it that Canada will have some 13 million electric vehicles on the road. Those vehicles will need mechanics, and Fanshawe is hoping to train them, announcing the launch of a new green vehicle tech program slated for next year. “To meet the transportation industry’s needs, Fanshawe will launch the new Green Vehicle Technology diploma program in fall 2024, with the first cohort graduating in 2026,” the school said. It estimates that it will see around 40 students enter the program each year, where they’ll focus on “all aspects of operating, owning and maintaining green vehicles, including hydrogen, plug-in hybrid electric and battery electric.” Graduates of the program, Fanshawe said, “will be in demand across the country in automotive, truck and coach, power lift truck repair, dealerships, chain repair and advanced manufacturing.”


The upshot: That the timeline for the first batch of graduates lines up nicely with the estimated opening of the VW’s massive St. Thomas battery plant is probably no accident, as Fanshawe will be keen to be seen as the school of choice for those eyeing up a career in electric vehicles. It’s a smart move on that front. Fanshawe is also making a considerable investment in facilities, and said they have plans to build an 1,800 square-foot Green Vehicle Lab at the corner of their existing Automotive Lab. “I think in time it's going to be pretty big,” said Steve Patterson, Fanshawe’s dean of sciences, trades and technology, speaking with CBC News London. “We have many different programs that really create a suite of services around training for the EVT industry. I suspect at Fanshawe College alone, we will see several hundred students within that portfolio within two to three years.” 

Read more: Fanshawe College | CBC News London

Londons new Children’s Museum shaping up at 100 Kellogg

Work is well underway on the new London Children’s Museum at the 100 Kellogg complex, and local media were given a sneak peek at the progress this week. It’s a big space ― 36,000 square feet ― with big plans. The museum will include eight main exhibit features, including an accessible treehouse village, a farm exhibit, archaeological material, a STEAM-based discovery lab and an event space. “The London Children’s Museum has always been here to help our littlest Londoners thrive with self-directed learning, exploration and unique experiences that build confidence and resilience,” noted executive director Kate Ledgley (pictured). “Our new space will make this critical learning opportunity possible for even more children.” The new facility is expected to open next fall, and the museum is estimating that its new location will attract around 140,000 visitors annually and will generate around $6.4 million for the local economy.

The upshot: On the topic of money, the museum is also hoping to drum up a bit of excitement they can convert into funds as it enters the final phase of its $23-million capital campaign. With $18 million already raised, the museum is seeking a final $5 million push from the

community to complete the campaign and support a space that is nearly double the exhibit square footage of the current museum. “Word of mouth is magic,” campaign co-chair Bill Tucker told London News Today, “and when we get people to take the tour and see what the potential is, word will spread.”

Read more: London Chamber of Commerce

Students, faculty and staff push back on Brescia-Western merger

A crowd of Brescia University College students, faculty and staff, reportedly numbering in the hundreds, were out making noise along Western Road on Wednesday, protesting the announcement made last week that Western would be absorbing Brescia, which would be winding down its independence after 104 years in operation. Many students and faculty are unhappy about the move. “There’s something about the community that’s extremely valuable to us,” Brescia professor Monika Lee told the CBC. An online petition in support of the school has garnered some 7,000 signatures. Hermione Ramsay Speers, who launched the petition, wrote that the move was “a blow to women in Canada,” and added that “women who are survivors of sexual assault choose this campus for safety and security and it’s being ripped out from under them.”


The upshot: More than anything, what’s become apparent over the past week is just how much of a surprise the announcement was. The president of Brescia’s faculty association Andrew Chater told The Globe and Mail that while faculty recognized that the school was in need of a funding boost, the idea of full integration hadn’t been on their radar. “People are very upset. Our students are very upset. They came to Brescia because they believe in Brescia, they believe in women’s education,” he said. Others point out that Western’s small affiliate colleges (Huron, King’s and Brescia) have been a real asset for big brother, too ― for years the colleges have been pitched to incoming students as a way to earn a big-school degree with a small-school community. It’s likely that we haven’t heard the final word on the merger, especially as the details of job security get worked out among staff and faculty. 

Read more: The Globe and Mail | CBC News London

LOLA Bees recipient of inaugural eco-upgrade grant from Meridian Credit Union

Congrats to LOLA Bees, a local learning apiary founded by Ellie Cook geared to community beekeeping, which was announced as the winner of Meridian Credit Union’s Eco-Upgrade grant prize, a contest that aims to help small businesses go green by financially contributing to eco-minded upgrades. The $15,000 grant, according to a press release, will allow Lola Bees to purchase an e-bike and cargo trailer to help them move their bee equipment around the city, taking it to workshops and community events. “Business owners are often challenged in doing what is right for the environment because they struggle to justify an additional expense when already facing higher costs that are impacting their margins,” said Nigel Millington of Meridian Business Banking. “Providing grants under the Eco-Upgrade Project is just one way we are helping small business owners to overcome barriers to operating in an eco-friendlier way.”


The upshot: It’s a nice shot in the arm for the community beekeeping project, which was started four-and-a-half years ago by Cook, her husband Jeff Pastorius and their friend Marianne Griffith, executive director at London Environmental Network. It’s something of a passion project launched Cook and Pastorius, who are well known around town for their innovative food-and-beverage related ventures, including the London Brewing, On the Move Organics and Forest City Botanicals. The London Environmental Network also received Meridian funding via the same grant program ― $5,000 to purchase two e-bikes for their core city staff to use for business-related travel.

Read more: Meridian Credit Union | LOLA Bees

Dispatch: September 29, 2023

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

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