Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” — Joe Chernov

Londons rental rate push shows no signs of easing

New data from Rentals.ca highlights the extent to which the London’s housing affordability challenges have spilled over into the rental market, driving up rents and pushing vacancy rates to new lows. The average one bedroom in the city goes for $1,808 (a 26 per cent increase a year ago), according to year-end data, while a two-bed goes for $2,153 (a 29.7 per cent increase). In 2022, the combined rate (all unit sizes) was recorded at $2,047, a 30.2 per cent gain from a year ago. “Among medium-sized markets, annual rent increases of over 30 per cent in December were recorded in cities that experienced some of the fastest rates of population growth in 2022, including Kitchener, Halifax and London,” the report stated. Those forces have brought the city’s vacancy rate ― the percentage of unoccupied rental units available for rent ― to 1.7 per cent, the second-lowest level since the CMHC began tracking this figure in 2001.


The upshot: Sure, there will be some landlords around town happy with all of this, but rental rates vastly outpacing wage inflation is not a great long-term formula for any local economy. And rents have gotten to the point where London’s working-class residents are struggling to put ― or keep ― a roof over their heads. This is hugely problematic. We’ve said it before in this newsletter ― outside of eliminating immigration and population growth, there’s only one way to solve a housing affordability crisis: by building more housing units of all types. A lot more. If we really want to end the housing emergency, municipal leaders need to start treating developers, landlords and other housing suppliers as the solution rather than the problem.  

Read more: Rentals.ca | London Free Press

YXU sets 1M passenger target

The London International Airport is setting a target of one million annual passengers by 2026 — more than double what it is targeting this year, and a nearly five-fold increase over 2022. It hopes to do this mainly on the back of new flight options for commuters. “We’re just trying to build these relationship and more service with our airline partners, and hoping that all people in London and surrounding area take advantage,” airport CEO Scott McFadzean told Global News. Helping the cause is news this week from Flair Airlines that it will begin twice weekly flights from London to Winnipeg this June.


The upshot: The numbers being thrown around here are a good gauge of where the airport is at vis-a-vis Covid: YXU hopes to see around 400,000 passengers this year, more than double what it saw in 2021. But its 2019 passenger count was just shy of 700,000. Hitting the million passenger mark would be, more than anything, proof that the airport was back on track with its pre-pandemic trajectory. 

Read more: Global News

Region awaits news on Volkswagen battery cell plant

The prospect of a Volkswagen electric battery cell plant in the region is coming closer to fruition, with a German media report suggesting that Ontario is the front runner — and the Ontario government has reportedly pitched subsidies and incentives to VW to make it happen. The final decision hasn’t been made yet, but VW is believed to have decided on a North American battery cell plant investment to support its plant its EV vehicle plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


The upshot: The federal industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has been a strong advocate for this deal, and in December told EV publication Electric Autonomy that he believed VW was close to announcing an Ontario investment. “I don’t think they would invite the minister of industry of Canada with 400 of their top managers” if this wasn’t VW’s intent, Champagne said. It’s speculated that the plant will likely land between the western GTA and London. St. Thomas, for one, has assembled a massive parcel of land to bid for a major manufacturing investment, and would fit the needs for a large-scale automotive EV plant.

Read more: Globe and Mail



Maybe Your Advertising Needs a Bigger Idea, Not a Bigger Budget


The hidden costs of smashed business windows

Business owners who have had their storefront windows smashed multiple times over the past two years are speaking out about the high toll it takes — both financially and (less visibly) emotionally — as they continue to fight their way out of Covid. Speaking to CBC, the owner of Grace Restaurant and Grace Bodega Angela Murphy said that her restaurant has had at least five smashed windows, including one in the past couple weeks. Many businesses like hers are forced to pay out of pocket as well. “It’s already almost impossible to get business insurance for a restaurant right now because of the pandemic,” she said.


The upshot: “It emotionally affects us in different levels,” added Sandeep Maddukuri, manager of Charminar Indian Cuisine on Dundas Street. As window smashing continues, you might start seeing more metal bars out front of businesses as a result. The Downtown London BIA and the city offer grants to businesses to help them with the cost of putting up protective bars, as well as supplier discounts. According to the CBC, the BIA provided 32 different grants totalling just over $37,000. Those grants are available again this year until the end of December.

Read more: CBC London

Reptilia: One slither forward, one slither back

City politicians said that Reptilia’s proposed bylaw amendment is “filled with holes,” but this week approved it anyways — the latest step forward for the reptile zoo under construction at Westmount Shopping Centre. Several councillors wanted to see more info about insurance, animal transport plans and public safety plans. But the community and protective services committee voted to approve it. “To ignore the economic benefits is a disservice to Londoners,” said Councillor Susan Stevenson. “We have talked about being bold, risky and innovative in our planning.”


The upshot: If you thought you were done hearing about Reptilia, think again. The vote now goes to council on February 14 for a full vote. If approved, it will trigger a public consultation meeting in March. Any changes made there will be kicked back to committee, and then back up to council at some point in the future for a final vote. How that is likely to shake out is anyone’s guess — several councillors, including the CPS committee chair Elizabeth Peloza, are firmly against the idea. 

Read more: CTV News London

Business EV charger incentive program returns

Green Economy London announced that the EV Charger Incentive Program is back for 2023. The program will cover up to 50 per cent of the total cost of EV charging projects, up to $100,000, with the money coming as part a partnership between NRCan and TD Bank, with a target goal of spending $3.4 million by 2024. Applications for the grant will be open until March 8, 2023.


The upshot: EV this…EV that… with each issue of this newsletter it becomes more apparent that the EVs are coming ― and fast. Green Economy London, the local hub of Green Economy Canada that is administering the grants locally, are angling hard at local businesses to install them, with a pitch focused around how EV chargers as a way to increase traffic business traffic and “provide a visible symbol of your interest and commitment to sustainability.”

Read more: Green Economy London

Dispatch: February 3, 2023

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

View listings here

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