Commerce chambers study growth

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A collaboration of information between the Thunder Bay and Ontario Chamber of Commerce organizations has resulted in the Ontario chamber’s report, Supporting Economic Growth in Uncertain Times, which will be released in early February.

The report states Ontario’s economy is facing several headwinds, such as softening consumer and business confidence, which requires a vision for long-term, sustained economic growth driven by investments in greater production capacity.

Amid rising interest rates, inflation, supply chain and labour shortages and the looming threat of a recession, the report emphasizes how critical it is for governments to focus on creating the right conditions to support competitiveness, productivity, and long-term economic growth.

Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, says the report is a way to keep it “top of mind” with the provincial government, that these challenges continue.

“The Ontario economic report really digs into the business community’s perspective on where the economy is going, how it’s going to impact a business and it questions if business operators feel competent in the climate and what it means for each business,” she explained. “This will really dig into what our business is saying about the economic climate that they’re operating in and trying to lead that into the upcoming provincial budget.”

Robinson noted that it’s important for the government to understand what the challenges are of the business community and to keep them in mind while looking for ways that they can be helping to support growth.

“A few things talked about in the report include regulation and modernization of provincial regulation and looking for those process improvements. There’s taxation of course, fiscal policy, structuring itself around pro-growth policies — so making sure that taxation is incentivizing growth rather than penalizing it,” Robinson said.

“The other piece was around innovation. We need both the private and the public sectors to be embracing innovation so that we are moving forward with the new digital infrastructure that’s needed. We need support for those research and development opportunities where we’ve got some really smart people in Ontario that are making new software and new products that need to be supported to help to grow Ontario as an Innovation Cluster.”

Robinson says the chamber is looking forward to the report coming out in the next couple of weeks. Two of the authors of that report will be in Thunder Bay on Feb. 15 at the Valhalla Inn presenting the findings, both provincially as well as the regional findings to the chamber’s membership, during the Prosperity Northwest business building conference and trade show event.

“It’s really highlighting opportunities for business growth and providing a chance to meet one on one with businesses and buyers and those up-and-coming companies that are looking to make connections while trying to raise the awareness of some of the opportunities that are happening in the region as well as Thunder Bay,” she said.

Robinson added that the conference is making a comeback after being on hiatus since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The chamber is partnering with the Anishnawbe Business Professionals Association and the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund that will feature keynote speakers, a luncheon and more than 50 exhibit booths of businesses from around the region.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal