Sault Ste Marie Chamber Of Commerce

Your Recognized Voice of Business in Sault Ste Marie

2017 Year In Review

As 2017, draws to a close, we would like to thank our members for their continued support.
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is comprised of more than 700 local businesses and agencies from a wide range of sectors and it is the membership of businesses and agencies, like yours, that allows us to do what we do:
  • advocating on behalf business, and in particular, local business, to promote an environment that is conducive to a healthy economy that benefits the entire community and makes Sault Ste. Marie  better place to live, work and do business;
  • keeping the business community informed of the latest news, legislation and opportunities that will impact them;
  • offering a variety of services and affinity programs that make running a business more affordable.
Your membership and continued support is invaluable and we thought that with 2018 just around the corner, it might be a good time to share some of the successes and highlights of 2017...
A Round Table with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
In January, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a round table discussion with Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath and Ontario NDP Chief of Staff, Michael Balagus.  Some of the topics that were discussed included concerns about the new Cap and Trade legislation, electricity prices and the impact that they are having on small business, health care and red tape.
Health & Wellness Expo
The SSMCOC hosted its second annual Health & Wellness Expo on January 14th. More than 20 exhibitors were on-hand to talk one-on-one with Expo guests about the many resources, products and services available within our community that add value to our physical, nutritional, mental and financial health and well-being. The Health & Wellness Expo was presented by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce and The Machine Shop and was sponsored by sootoday.comThe Country Way104.3 CountryKISS 100.5ENVISION Strategy & Design and Showstoppers Special Events Rentals & Retail.
Recognizing Excellence from Among our Members
It was a celebration of entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, community and social responsibility as the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC) handed out its Outstanding Business Achievement Awards on Saturday February 18th at its gala awards ceremony. More than 180 nominations were received and 15 businesses, agencies and indivduals were presented with 17 awards. 2016-17 SSMCOC President, Paul Johnson concluded the event by noting that, "in striving to be the best in their sector, in service or in some aspect of operations, each of our recipients and the award nominees have raised the bar for all local businesses and business people. They have pushed our business community to aspire to more than just the status quo and in doing so, they bring greater prosperity and opportunity to our community. They make Sault Ste. Marie a better place to live and to work."
A Win for Your Health Benefits
Early in 2017, the Sault Ste Marie Chamber of Commerce lent its support to a number of Canada's leading heath associations, by asking its members and social media followers to send an e-message to the Federal Department of Finance, which was considering taxing employer health and dental benefits as a revenue source. This new tax could have meant hundreds or thousands of dollars added to Canadian's tax bills and could have put many Canadians at risk of losing their coverage if their employer couldn't afford to keep them insured. The Chamber was pleased to hear that the concerns of tax-payers, workers and businesses were heard. Following the campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the tax would not be part of the budget strategy.
A Win-Win Signage By-Law
In February, Sault Ste. Marie City Council voted in favour of passing its new sign by-law. The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce was one of several presenters on hand during the by-law deliberation. While the Chamber feels that the majority of the new by-law is a reasonable accommodation to conflicting interests, one issue that remained a concern to the Chamber was the section specific to portable signs. The Chamber surveyed its membership in January and found that many of its members remained concerned about the impacts that new by-law would have on their businesses.
The Chamber met with the City during the course of the development of the sign by-law, representing the interests of its member businesses, and feels that a lot of good discussion was held and compromises made by both sides during the process.
Chamber member Q&A with Patrick Brown, Ontario PC Party
On February 15th, The Chamber hosted a Question and Answer session with Patrick Brown, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and Leader of the Official Opposition. Brown was joined by a number of PC MPPs and opposition critics including: Lorne Coe (Whitby-Oshawa), Bob Bailey (Sarnia Lambdon), Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London), Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings), Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka), Victor Fedeli (Nipissing) and then-nominee, Ross Romano.  Some of the topics that were discussed included debt levels, Cap-and-Trade, Connecting Links funding, OLG modernization and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
Provincial Pre-Budget Submission
The SSMCOC, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber, formally released its 2017 Pre-budget Submission containing recommendations to the Ontario legislature as it began its spring session. The submission outlined 4 key budget priorities and 13 specific recommendations for Queen's Park to adopt in order to restore fiscal balance and spur economic growth. Specifically, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce was looking for a modernization of the Connecting Links funding mechanism and for government to demonstrate fiscal prudence and sound budget management, including an increase in the transparency of crown corporation divestment. Two of the thirteen recommendations outlined in the OCC's pre-budget submission were drawn from policy resolutions that were originally submitted by our local Chamber as part of joint resolutions to the OCC.
The Ontario Economic Report
In later Spring, the Chamber, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, released the inaugural Ontario Economic Report (OER), a landmark agenda aimed at shaping and informing future public policy. The OER included entirely new economic analyses that demonstrate the difficult economic environment to be faced by Ontario businesses and consumers in 2017. The report also contained exclusive economic information pertaining to the Northeast region.
Local Industrial and Commercial Tax Rates
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce continued throughout 2017 to push for a decrease in the local industrial and commercial tax rates. A study completed by the Chamber, and further verified by an independent tax competitiveness study by KPMG and affirmed by an independent study by the Mayor's office, showed that the Sault's commercial and industrial tax rates have been identified as the third highest in the province. The Chamber has advocated for a proactive action-oriented solution benefiting all tax payers in the community. The Chamber's 'industrial and commercial tax rates task force' completed an updated comparison of how Sault Ste. Marie fares next to other municipalities in Northern Ontario and across the province in respect to commercial and industrial taxes.
One-on-One with Ontario's Minister of Energy
Energy was top of mind for all Ontarians in 2017, as the province's future economic prosperity is intrinsically tied to the reliability and cost effectiveness of our energy supply. The Ontario Chamber Network and its members, including the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, have consistently reported that the price of electricity is directly tied to business' capacity to grow, hire new workers, and ultimately remain competitive.   On March 10th, Chamber members were invited to a breakfast Q&A with Ontario's Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault.
One-on-One with our Elected Officials
The Chamber continued its annual tradition of hosting open discussions with both our Mayor and our MP.
On March 20th Chamber members were invited to take part in a breakfast Q&A with Mayor Christian Provenzano, sponsored by OLG. Municipal corporate and industrial taxes, OLG jobs, the local economy, challenges at Essar Steel Algoma and the recent sign by-law were all discussed.
On April 19th, MP Terry Sheehan took part in a fireside chat to discuss the national economy, advocating for the Canadian steel industry and NAFTA.
2017 Home Decor and Renovation Expo
More than 40 local businesses showcasing the latest in home, renovations and home decor, took part in the Chamber's 2017 Home Décor and Renovation Expo in March. The event was the perfect opportunity for anyone planning home renovations to talk one-on-one with dozens of experts and to see all of the latest home innovations, accessories, styles, trends and services. The 2017 Home Décor and Renovation Expo was presented by The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce and was proudly sponsored by: The Machine ShopEnvision Strategy + Design104.3 CountryKiSS and CTV.
Advocacy at the Provincial Level
A delegation from the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce was in attendance at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) AGM in Sarnia-Lambton May 4th to 6th. The Annual OCC AGM offers leaders from Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade from across the province an opportunity to meet and hear from provincial party leaders, ministers and captains of industry. Delegates also vote on a number of resolutions that will form the framework for advocacy and lobbying efforts undertaken by the OCC for the next several years.
The SSMCOC authored and submitted a policy resolution encouraging the Ontario Government to create Northern Ontario economic hubs, technology clusters and innovation ecosystems. It partnered on several other resolutions addressing the impact of climate change on transportation Infrastructure in Ontario's north, helping industries and communities transition to a low-carbon economy, improving Indigenous education in Ontario, making the Ontario Energy Board hearing process more accessible and reducing permitting delays in mining exploration.
Responding to the Budgets
March and April saw both federal and provincial budgets tabled.
The Chamber was pleased to see acknowledgement of several items in the federal budget that it has been pursuing including new investments in innovation and agri-business as well as legislative and regulatory amendments to improve the enforcement of trade measures which will help the steel industry.
News in the provincial budget of increased funding to the Connecting Links program was welcomed by the Sault Chamber but it cautioned against the budget's lack of long term fiscal prudence and any clear measures to re-invest cap-and-trade dollars back into communities like the Sault that are home to businesses that will be hit hardest by cap-and-trade costs.
Front-and-Centre in the By-election
Recognizing the importance of the recent by-election as a possible pre-cursor to a general provincial election, the SSMCOC used the opportunity to ensure that business and the economy were central issues during the campaign.
On May 11th, the Chamber hosted a breakfast forum for the candidates and allowed each candidate to discuss their, and their party's, views on a number of issues including cap-and-trade, hydro costs, economic-enabling infrastructure, and the province's debt.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce's VP of Policy and Government Relations, Karl Baldauf was in SSM on May 25th to discuss the OCC's Ontario Economic Report, aimed at spurring growth in the province.
The Chamber, in partnership with Algoma University, wrapped up the campaign with a live candidates' debate on May 30th. The debate was carried live on Shaw TV and streamed simultaneously by Six of the seven candidates that were vying to represent SSM at Queen's Park took part in the debate which covered both business and social issues governed by provincial legislation.
Hosting Noront, Discussing The Ring of Fire
On Wednesday May 10th, the Chamber and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation played host to senior management from Noront Resources. Noront President and CEO Alan Coutts and Chief Development Officer Stephen Flewelling were on-hand for a SSMCOC / SSMEDC luncheon to discuss the current status and scale of Noront's Eagle's Nest project and future chromite projects. Coutts noted that Sault Ste. Marie is one of a handful of communities under consideration for a ferrochrome smelter which would create approximately 350 direct and another 150 indirect jobs. The luncheon presentation drew almost 150 local business people interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity for our community and was sponsored by the Port of Algoma.
Talking Steel in Ottawa
The Chamber was in Ottawa twice in 2017 discussing steel and its impact on our local economy.
In March, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, along with its counterparts from Windsor - Essex and Hamilton appeared before the Federal Government's Standing Committee on International Trade to discuss the impact that unfair trade practices relating to foreign steel is having on communities and supporting businesses.
They were joined by key players in Canada's steel industry including Essar Steel AlgomaTenaris, Stelco Inc. Gerdau Long Steel NA and Evraz who discussed how a combination of increased regulation, instability in the global market economy and unfair market behavior by foreign competitors has led to a sharp decline in the ability of the Canadian steel industry to compete globally.
At the end of May, the three Chambers returned to Ottawa to participate in the All-Party Parliamentary Steel Caucus in advance of meetings between Canada and the U.S. on steel. The Chambers discussed the steel industry and its importance to Ontario's economy as well as trade relationships between Canada and the U.S. in respect to steel.
Previously, the three Chambers secured support for a National Steel Strategy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in September 2016 and in August 2016 teamed up to write a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, requesting that the Government of Canada address the issue of foreign steel dumping.
Taking a lead in the discussion on Bill 148 and Minimum Wage
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce continued to monitor the progress of the Ontario government's Workplace Review. In May, the government introduced a number of legislative proposals as part of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, that went beyond the recommendations of its own review and ignored its own policies on minimum wage increases that it put in place three years ago which tied increases to the rate of inflation and de-politicized the process. The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce response was swift.
Immediately following the government's announcements, the Chamber surveyed its members and asked them to rate their level of concern on a number of the Bill's labour and employment changes. More than 90% of the almost one-hundred respondents expressed a high level of concern about the minimum wage increase as well as other proposed changes to employment legislation. 
Chambers of Commerce from across province joined with a broad-spectrum group of business sector organizations to form the Keep Ontario Working Coalition. In light of the fact that the Ontario Government refused to conduct an economic impact analysis to fully understand how the legislation will change Ontario's economy, the Coalition released the first independent economic impact analysis of the legislation conducted by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA), which showed that the legislation will put 185,000 Ontario jobs at risk and drive up costs $1,300 per household on average.   Throughout 2017, the SSMCOC remained one of the leading voices in the discussion on Bill 148 locally. In September, the Chamber hosted two town hall sessions to foster dialogue on the legislation.
In response to the invitation for written submissions on Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce sent an  open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in November.
In mid-November, the SSMCOC, in partnership with the OCC and MNP, one of Canada's leading accounting firms, released a comprehensive handbook for Ontario's business community that provides strategies to help businesses navigate the incoming changes related to Bill 148.The handbook outlines potential risks and challenges that employers may face and offers human resources and operational strategies to help businesses better navigate some of those challenges.
Round Table with the U.S. Consul General
On August 9th, the Chamber hosted a round-table discussion with U.S. Consul General, Juan Alsace. The Consul General was interested to hear about the business environment in Sault Ste. Marie and to learn about some of our key businesses and industries. He also encouraged round-table participants to discuss what legislative or regulatory hurdles the business community is experiencing, how the region is impacted by trade with the U.S., and areas where Chamber members would like to see trade expanded. Tenaris Algoma Tubes invited us into their facility for this round-table and arranged a tour of their facility for the U.S. Consul General.
Confronting unfair taxes on Small Business
In early Fall, the chamber network across Canada used its collective voice to oppose proposed changes to the way in which small businesses and incorporated businesses would be taxed by the federal government. The proposed changes were widely seen, by both business people as well as analysts and other experts, as unfair, with the potential to have a chilling effect on small business growth, re-investment and entrepreneurship.
Locally, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce held two information sessions for small businesses with representatives from BDO Canada and KPMG to discuss the impacts that the proposed changes would have on the way small business is conducted. The Chamber also actively encouraged its members to contact our local MP on the issue. After aggressive lobbying by the network of business groups, the Federal government retracted several of the proposed changes and scaled back others. Our response is available HERE.
Award nominations launch
In October, the SSMCOC launched the nomination process for its 2017 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards. More than 200 nominations were received, recognizing local businesses that are outstanding in their sector, that strive to be innovative and find new ways to engage their customers, that have adapted unique business practices that set them apart from their competition.
A round table with the Critic for FedNor
Also in October, representatives from the Chamber had an opportunity to sit down for a round table discussion with MP Jamie Schmale (Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Brock). Schmale is the deputy critic for Natural Resources and the critic FedNor. Some of the topics covered included, northern infrastructure, FedNor programming and The Ring of Fire. It was an excellent opportunity for the Chamber to discuss both the challenges facing local businesses as well as the many opportunities that Sault Ste. Marie has to offer.
The Chamber presents a national resolution: Support Canada's Steel Industry
In September, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce sent a contingent to the 2017 Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Fredericton, NB. As part of CCC AGM business, Chamber reps voted on resolutions brought forward by Chambers from across the country. Resolutions accepted at the CCC AGM form the backbone of advocacy efforts undertaken by the Canadian Chamber at the national level. Our local Chamber brought with them a policy resolution authored by the SSMCOC and supported by the Chambers in Hamilton and Windsor Essex Region. That policy resolution asserted that the United States review of the Trade Expansion Act and protectionist measures specific to steel has the potential to have a crippling effect on the Canadian steel industry and the 22,000 direct jobs that it generates. The resolution included a number of recommendations intended to recognize the importance of the Canadian steel industry and help avoid and minimize the impact of protectionist actions by our U.S. trading partner.
The resolution was discussed in depth and ultimately passed, ensuring Canadian steel remains a point of advocacy by the network of Canadian chambers of commerce and boards of trade.
Ontario Economic Summit
The Ontario Economic Summit (OES) has been steering the conversation about Ontario's economic future for over 10 years. Presented annually by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the OES convenes leaders from the private and public sectors in a collaborative forum to define the solutions to Ontario's greatest economic challenges. The OES is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for leaders from a diverse range of sectors and organizations to share business insights, explore partnership opportunities and influence public policy.
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce CEO, Rory Ring made his way this year's OES, November 8th to 10th at Niagara On The Lake. While at the Summit, Ring had a chance to meet with provincial ministers and leaders from all three of Ontario's main political parties. He also facilitated a discussion with David de Launay, Deputy Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Calling on the Minister of Transport
Transport Canada is proposing to amend the Canadian Aviation Regulations in relation to flight crew member hours of work and rest periods. Through discussions with local member airlines, Northern Ontario Chambers have become increasingly concerned with the negative impacts these proposals will have on air service across Northern Ontario.
On November 15th the Chambers from Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins, Thunder Bay and Sudbury sent an open letter to the Minister of Transport voicing their concerns.
Ask the MPP
On December 1st, the Chamber hosted its annual breakfast discussion with the MPP. Sault Ste. Marie Member of Provincial Parliament, Ross Romano was in the 'hot seat' for the first time, answering questions and discussing issues including The Ring of Fire, Bill 148, red tape, the economy and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario's recently released platform package. The discussion was facilitated by Chamber CEO, Rory Ring. The entire discussion can be watched HERE.
Events, Events, Events...
In addition to the many iniatives detailed above, the Chamber continued with its tradition of hosting exceptional networking opportunities with its monthly Take 5s. 2017's Take 5s included:
  • Algoma University, sponsored by BDO (February)
  • OLG Casino Sault Ste. Marie (March)
  • The Water Tower Inn (April)
  • Solo trattoria (May)
  • the Delta Hotels by Marriott Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront, sponsored by Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship (June)
  • The Grand Gardens North, sponsored by KiSS100.5 & 104.3Country (September)
  • Gliss Steak & Seafood, sponsored by Sovereign Communications Group (October)
  • the Festival of Trees, sponsored by RBC Royal Bank (November)
  • Holiday Inn Express (December)
The Chamber re-launched its golf and networking series this summer. The all new 'Nine after 5' offered participants the chance to enjoy some complimentary food, fantastic networking, tips from the pro and nine holes of golf all hosted by Crimson Ridge in June, July and August.
The Chamber's annual Women In Business Breakfast continued to be one of our most anticipated events. This year's event was hosted in conjunction with International Women's Day. Event sponsors included: Community First - A Division of Your Neighborhood Credit Union and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, the BDCNorthwood Funeral HomeThe Water Tower Inn100.5 KiSS and Kevanna Fine Photography.
Thank you again. None of the advocacy or events noted above would have been possible without the support of our members. We look forward to continuing to work for you, our member businesses, as we welcome 2018!
Best Wishes for Continued Business Success!
Your Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Staff