Work for the Chamber? We’re Hiring…

The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest not-for-profit associations in southern Ontario. Our focus is on service to over 550 Member businesses and organizations, and the employees within them, through a broad range of programs, benefits, events and services. We have an opening on our staff for a Member Services Representative.  Applications will be accepted until August 1. Click here for full position details and information. Applications are welcome via email to: or delivered to the Chamber office.

Ontario Budget Summary

Spending, deficit, and debt are going up.

This budget increases government spending by $3 billion, from $127 billion in 2013-14 to $130 billion in 2014-15.

The deficit will grow from $11.3 billion to $12.5 billion over the same period. Meanwhile, Ontario’s overall debt will grow to $289.3 billion by end of 2014-15 and $317.2 billion by the end 2016-17. The province’s debt-to-GDP ratio will grow to an alarming 40.3 percent in 2014-15.
Servicing the debt will cost $11 billion in 2014-15, approximately $3 billion more than government spends on colleges and universities.

The budget includes an annual program review savings target of $250 million for 2014-15 and $500 million for each of the subsequent two years.

Our Analysis…

Ontario requires a robust plan to reduce spending and tackle the debt. Controlling spending in an effort to reduce the deficit and debt is a top priority for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network and the number one means by which Ontario can guarantee its long-term prosperity.
This budget falls short on the pace of deficit and debt reduction. The annual program review targets are too modest. For the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s vision for a smarter, more efficient government, see Unlocking the Public Service Economy in Ontario.

Student Connection? Here’s How…

An Open Letter to our Members

I hope the summer is treating you all well! My name is Erich Otten and I am a Support Services Assistant for Algoma University. As many of you know St. Thomas is a community with three post-secondary institutions: Algoma University, Fanshawe College St. Thomas/Elgin and Omnicom School of Languages.
Last year in 2013 we implemented a Merchant Loyalty Discount Program for students at all three schools. We are very grateful and appreciate the merchants who have already joined our program. This year we are looking to expand the program by inviting new businesses to join!
If you are interested in offering a student discount or already do so this is a great way to grow your consumer market through post-secondary students. A student discount increases clientele, encourages repeat business and develops your brand awareness. In addition a list will be published on the Algoma University – St. Thomas Extension’s Facebook page, and provided in Algomau student’s orientation package.
If you are interested in a listing, or would like to included materials or product promotions during our ‘2014 Student Orientation Frosh Week’  please contact:
Donna Rankin – email: or call 519-633-6501

Erich Otten – email: or call 519-633-6501

Debra Burgess – email: or call 519-633-2030 Ext 223


Deadline was July 1

Have your workers completed the training? It’s a must for all employers.

You’ve probably heard about the new health and safety awareness training that’s been mandated by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour. You probably have questions about whether or not it applies to your business and, if it does, what you can do to get started.

The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce recently sought a clarification from Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), on behalf of our Members.  According to John Aird, Manager, Industry & Partner Relations at WSPS, “All businesses are expected to comply with the legislation irrespective of size and whether they pay into WSIB or not. There is no exemption. But it doesn’t have to be onerous. The Ministry has created resources that are available on its website to help businesses of all sizes be in compliance.”

The date you’re expected to be in compliance has passed:  July 1, 2014. Employers must ensure that all workers and supervisors have completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program that meets the requirements set out in the new regulation.  It’s not a difficult thing to complete, and requires about 45 – 60 minutes to do online, via the link below.

What training has been approved: Employers can develop their own or use existing training, so long as it meets requirements outlined in the regulation, or they can use a suite of tools provided at no cost by the Ministry, available online in multiple formats and multiple languages (see below). The awareness training will help employers meet existing obligations, not impose new ones.

What the Ministry’s suite of products looks like

You’ll find the Ministry’s poster, worker and supervisor workbook, employer guide and e-Learning modules available for download at The worker and employer guides are also available in Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Print versions are available at no cost by calling Service Ontario at 1 877 202 0008.

Pension Reform?

An Employer Perspective on Fixing Ontario’s Pension Problem

Our latest paper finds Ontario’s employers want a pension system that supports our long-term competitiveness, targets groups that require additional pension support, and builds on the province’s status as a global leader in financial services. Weighed against these and other objectives, employers are firmly in favour of Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). They are much less supportive of enhancing government-managed pension programs. Learn more…



The Choice is Ours…

rszTop10-logoThe Canadian Chamber of Commerce has unveiled our Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness for 2014.

The national Chamber network undertook this initiative two years ago to draw attention to the barriers that are holding back Canada’s progress and to urge all levels of government to act more swiftly to improve our country’s ability to compete globally.

Since launching this initiative in 2012, we have made great progress in furthering our competitiveness agenda, particularly in addressing the barrier our Members identified as being the greatest impediment to the success of Canadian business: the growing skills gap. The federal government and several provincial and territorial governments have also named this issue as the country’s biggest challenge.

Addressing the Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness will go a long way towards restoring Canada’s competitiveness. The Canadian Chamber is calling on its own membership, on governments, on educators, on labour organizations, and others to tackle and overcome these barriers. Tolerating them is simply not an option. Effectively addressing these 10 barriers will sharpen Canada’s competitive edge and allow us to prosper in the global economy.

We have a choice.  Either we act urgently to improve our competitiveness or we will pay a high price in lost jobs and prosperity. Working together, we’ve started to address these problems over the past two years. The challenge for 2014 is to build on this progress and start closing the gap between Canadian businesses and our international competitors.

Beneath The Surface

Our latest report reveals that Ontario’s Ring of Fire, the mineral resource-rich region in the James Bay Lowlands, will generate up to $9.4 billion in new economic activity over the first 10 years of operation and sustain 5,500 jobs annually in Ontario.The report, Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, makes it clear that the short-and long-term economic impacts of the Ring of Fire will be shared across the province.

According to our study, the mining development could generate more than $25 billion across numerous sectors in Ontario by 2047, including $2.7 billion in revenues for the financial services sector and $1.2 billion for the wholesale and retail trade sectors.

Based on extensive analysis and consultation, our report also outlines the key challenges that stand in the way of the development of the Ring of Fire and a 13-step action plan to overcome them.

Read the report

Read coverage in the Toronto Star

“A stronger economy and more jobs…”

The new federal budget presents the continuity of a plan for economic growth that builds on Canada’s economic and fiscal advantages. The measures announced by the government will help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.

“We have urged the government to focus on where Canada needs to be in five or 10 years, even if it means making tough decisions now. The government has acted on some of the key elements of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Top 10 initiative for restoring Canada’s competitiveness. The result will be a stronger economy and more jobs,” said Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty.

The Canadian Chamber particularly welcomes the money for major infrastructure projects: “Nobody cuts a ribbon when a new sewer pipe is installed. It’s just not a dramatic moment,” said Perrin Beatty. “But thousands of Canadians idling in their cars because of traffic congestion or bridge delays can tell us what investments in infrastructure can mean to our quality of life and productivity.”

There is a strong link between the investment in core public infrastructure, such as roads, transit and utilities, and the productivity performance of all sectors of the Canadian economy. Equally clear are the consequences of underinvestment. “The success and competitiveness of Canadian business depends on modern and efficient infrastructure,” said Beatty.

Measures to better match young workers with the skills needs of business are also a step in the right direction. The Canadian Chamber has made skills its top priority for the last three years and will continue to work closely with the government and the entire business community. In this regard, the Canadian Chamber also welcomes the government’s initiative on First Nations education, announced prior to the budget.

The Canadian Chamber has been advocating the important role remote communities can play in our economy. The money allocated to bringing internet access to more Canadians is a positive step forward for northern businesses.

Finally, the Canadian Chamber encourages the government to maintain its policy of allowing market forces to set services and prices for Canadian consumers. Unnecessary government intervention, however well intended, has a long record of damage and unintended consequences in Canada.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing some 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. News and information are available at or follow us on Twitter @CdnChamberofCom.

Emerging Stronger 2014

New Chamber Survey Results

-      Mixed Picture on St. Thomas & District Business Confidence

  • 66 percent of businesses in the region are confident in their own economic outlook
  • 44 percent of businesses express confidence in Ontario’s economy
  • 51 percent of businesses plan to expand in the next 5 years

Businesses in the St. Thomas area are unsure about the Ontario economy, according to a new survey from the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Leger Marketing. The annual Ontario Business Confidence Index shows that 44 percent of surveyed businesses are confident in Ontario’s economy. That figure is approximately 9 percentage above last year’s level, but still 4.5 percentage points below the current provincial average.

The index also shows that 66 percent of businesses in our region are confident in their own organization’s outlook, an increase of just 1.5 percentage points over the previous year. When it comes to growing their business, 51 say they plan to expand within the next five years, down slightly from this time last year.

“The net sense we get on a local level suggests some battle fatigue” says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce. The downward movement in how local business is approaching the future is a concern, but it’s also critical to note that our measurements were taken prior to the recent announcement on a new manufacturer coming to St. Thomas. Local businesses in every sector have been wrestling with the economy for an extended period, so it’s easy to understand why optimism isn’t as visible here as it might be other sections of the province or the country.”

The survey of businesses is featured in Emerging Stronger 2014, a business-driven economic agenda released by the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce and authored by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Mowat Centre and Leger Marketing. The report identifies the immediate steps that government and the private sector must take to enhance Ontario’s economic competitiveness and spur job creation in the province.

“There are actions that government and business can do to boost our economy and business confidence,” says Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “But right now there is uncertainty in Ontario’s business climate, possibly as a result of potential changes to the pension system and rising energy costs.”

The Chamber’s new report is the third in an annual series launched in 2012. The St. Thomas & District Chamber solicited comments and data from over 600 Member-businesses late last fall, as did hundreds of Chambers of Commerce in communities all over Ontario.  Our report is a major 61-page release that explores how business and industry felt as 2013 ended, and plans and budgets were set for 2014. The report is presented in a format filled with progressive analysis on the progression of issues of concern to the business/employer community, and contains several “Case Study” examples demonstrating progress and innovation.

Among the survey’s findings for St. Thomas & District are:

  • 66 percent of businesses are confident in their own economic outlook, an increase of just 1.5 percentage points over the previous year and approximately 8 percentage points below the provincial average.
  • 51 percent of area businesses plan to expand in the next five years, a decrease of approximately 2 percentage points compared this time last year.
  • Only 37.5 percent of local businesses believe that Ontario’s economy is headed in the right direction, noticeably lower than the provincial average of 42 percent.
  • 44 percent of St. Thomas & District businesses are confident in Ontario’s economy, approximately 9 percentage points above last year’s level, but still 4.5 percentage points below the provincial average.

Read or download a copy of Emerging Stronger 2014 now… just click here.

Regional Economic Review

The economic outlook for the London / St. Thomas region is cautiously optimistic, as it continues to experience slow growth and adjusts to considerable challenges in its manufacturing base, according to a new economic forecast released by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario.
Economic growth will remain slightly below the provincial average through 2014 and into 2015, held down by weak gains in consumer spending, personal income and residential investment as well as declining government investment and spending.
Total employment in the region is well above its 2009 recession low, and is expected to grow modestly over the next two years, from 327,500 in 2013 to 333,100 in 2015. Most jobs will be created in health-social services, retail-wholesale trade and various other service industries. Manufacturing employment is expected to hold at current levels.
The unemployment rate is forecasted to decline to 7.6 percent in 2015, from 8.1 percent in 2013.
Housing prices in London continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.  St. Thomas will continue to offer exceptionally good value in housing compared to other municipalities in the region, thanks to very competitive and aggressive pricing on land, taxes and construction.  Private sector investment in non-residential building construction, mostly stores and offices, is also expected to increase.
“The economic picture for our region isn’t perfect, but it is definitely showing improvement and promise over the long-term”, says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.
The London economic region covers Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex counties and is home to over 660,000 residents. The region’s economic base is relatively more concentrated in manufacturing and agriculture, its primary export industries, and has a fairly broad service industry base. Its principal centre is the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which contains most of the region’s manufacturing base .

Key Facts and Highlights in our review:
● Housing prices across the entire London & tri-county area will continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.

● Net migration to the London region is expected to rebound modestly after a dip in 2013. Over 5,000 people are expected to move to the region by 2015.
● The unemployment rate in the region will fall gradually to 7.6 percent by 2015, still above the projected provincial average of 6.8 percent.

● Those industries contributing most to economic growth through 2015 will be manufacturing, professional services, financial services, and retail-wholesale trade.

● Public sector investment continues to shrink in the short term, reversing the post-recession fiscal stimulus. No major investment projects are confirmed across the region in the near term, yet several potentials remain under active consideration and negotiation.  The value and employment considerations of the acquisition announced in St. Thomas January 13 by Sle-Co Plastics Inc. is unknown to date. General Motors Canada has announced that it will invest $250 million at its Ingersoll plant.

Download or view the full economic outlook at this link.  To see our entire Ontario Summary Report click here.

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