Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” — Banksy

About-face! Londons workforce participation rate posts dramatic turnaround

Four years ago, in the before times, then Mayor Ed Holder took to the stage for his inaugural State of the City address and spent a chunk of it talking about how to tackle the city’s dismal workforce participation rate. Well, something must have worked, because London has seen the biggest increase in labour participation of all metropolitan areas in Ontario over the last four years, according to recent data from Statistics Canada. In January 2022 the city recorded an 85.1 per cent participation rate of people aged 25 to 54 — a major jump over 2018, when the city’s 75.3 per cent was the worst urban rate in the whole country. “That has to be considered a good news story for the city,” King’s University College demographer Don Kerr told the London Free Press. “While all metropolitan areas across Ontario have seen an increase in the employment rate for these ages, London experienced the most dramatic increase.”


The upshot: What also jumps out here is the composition of that job growth. It’s easy to associate London historically with the education, healthcare and white-collar industries, but much of the recent growth has been broader based and attributable to sectors like advanced manufacturing, tech and food processing. “What we are trying to do is create a more sustainable economy by attracting a variety of different industries,” noted the LEDC’s Kapil Lakhotia. “We’ve had a lot of growth in food processing, a lot of growth in life sciences industries, as well as our technology and knowledge-based industries.”

Read more: London Free Press

LSTAR appoints Adam Miller as 2023 president

The London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors board of directors announced this week that Adam Miller will serve as its president in 2023. Based in St. Thomas, Miller is a broker/manager with Royal LePage Triland Realty and first joined the LSTAR board in 2017. “It is a very interesting time for the business of real estate, with the activity we’ve seen over the past few months with lower sales and stabilizing prices,” said Miller in a released statement. “Despite those trends, there is still a high demand for home ownership and real estate remains an integral component of the economy. As president, I look forward to engaging with our collaborative partners across the region and all levels of government to address housing supply and affordability issues.”


The upshot: Miller is certainly right here: it’s a very interesting time for the region’s real estate sector. From the pandemic pricing cool down and dearth of market inventory to the interest rate cycle and homelessness issues, expect to hear a lot from him as the year unfolds.  

Read more: LSTAR

3M mum on possible job cuts in London; city presence undergoing radical change

Earlier in the week, 3M Co. announced plans to cut 2,500 jobs globally, primarily in manufacturing, “to further align with adjusted production volumes,” although it has not said whether that will include any of the 1,800 or so workers employed in Canada. In addition to the Canadian headquarters, which employs about 400 office workers, London is also home to 3M’s largest Canadian manufacturing plant on Oxford Street East, where products such as duct tape and sandpaper are made by about 150 employees.


The upshot: Though there’s no clear idea if layoffs will be part of it, the future of 3Ms footprint in town is certainly changing. In September, the global manufacturing giant confirmed that its iconic London headquarters building on Tartan Drive is up for sale, with most of its corporate staff now working remotely (the asking price for the 135,000-square-foot facility has not been disclosed by Toronto-based Cresa, the commercial brokerage handling the listing). That announcement joined news that the company would be spinning off its healthcare business into a separate publicly traded company by the end of 2023. So, for many 3M employees in London, it’s a bit of an anxious game of wait-and-see.  

Read more: CBC London

City staff lay out path Reptilia must slither

The debate swirling around city hall over the Reptilia reptile zoo at Westmount Mall was back in force this week, as city staff delivered a new report to council outlining the bylaw changes it would have to consider to allow the zoo to exhibit exotic species. Reptilia (the firm is completing construction of a 30,000-square-foot facility in the mall) is seeking an exemption from the Animal Control By-law, which prohibits the display of exotic animals. In the report to council, the director of municipal compliance told council they would need to both approve a specific amendment as well as introduce a new business category for exotic animal establishments into the business licensing bylaw, which would require Reptilia to have things like animal inventory records, emergency management plans and veterinary health records for all the animals. It also recommended council hold a public participation meeting before making a final decision.


The upshot: Naturally, this has not exactly resolved tensions brewing over the zoo. Critics of the zoo say the exemption they’re asking for is too broad, and would technically permit things like lions, tigers and even elephants (though one doubts they have the ceiling clearance for that). Reptilia’s supporters on council aren’t totally thrilled either, claiming that animal welfare is the province’s jurisdiction. The report will be debated at next week’s community and protective services meeting; chances are very slim that we’ve heard the end of this just yet. 

Read more: CTV London

From the magazine: 10 Minutes With Xiomara Carrillo

Xiomara Carrillo, chief sales officer at StarTech.com, chats about the benefits of volunteering, decision-making and the product side of hybrid work.


Permit backlog casts doubt on mayors pledge of 50,000 new homes

Building permits are still slow to get through city hall, hamstringing efforts to increase housing supply, say members of the local homebuilding community. “We’ve been hearing concerns from builders, and the frustrating part is we raised this with staff in the summer and fall of last year,” Jared Zaifman, president of the London Home Builders’ Association (LHBA) told the London Free Press. He said there were “hundreds” of permits in the backlog, leading the LHBA to question how on earth the industry is supposed to bring about Mayor Josh Morgan’s campaign pledge of 50,000 new home in the next ten years ― a figure that would require about double the number of permits now being approved on an annual basis.   


The upshot: This is certainly not the first time homebuilders in London have expressed annoyance at the pace of permitting at city hall. For its part, the city says staff shortages and demand for commercial permits (the new Maple Leaf Foods poultry processing plant required 180 revisions to its permits alone) are to blame for the delay for homebuilding permits. And yes, getting permitting done faster has always been a hobbyhorse issue of the development community. But this is far from the only constraint the homebuilding industry is facing (the additional skilled trades needed to build 50,000 homes is considerable, for instance), and for the city to entertain any change of hitting Morgan’s ambitious target, it’s one bureaucratic issue that should be resolved sooner rather than later. 

Read more: London Free Press

Dispatch: January 27, 2023

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

View listings here

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