190 Wortley Rd. Courtesy of Realtor.ca
Small and medium enterprises (businesses with less than 99 and 100-499 employees respectively) account for over 10 million Canadian jobs, and 55.3% of those SME's have fewer than four employees. (Source)
The economic impacts of COVID-19 were staggering upon the Canadian economy, and the most simplest way to portray it would be through this graph:
Ward 11/Old South/Wortley Village has always been lauded for its "small town within a big city" feel. It's pretty universally accepted that "small businesses are the backbone of their local communities", and are also one of many ways that Ward 11 has fallen behind in the last eight years.
As part of my campaign, my team and I have searched, sought out, and contacted every single Ward 11 small business that we could find contact information for. We have had countless important conversation after opening a channel of communication, and have been commended for our attention to and desire to fight for "the little (person)".
In these conversations, a number of addressable themes have emerged. They include:
#1 - Ward 11 not having a BIA (Business Improvement Area) and having a stagnant Old South Business Association.
Areas in London that have a BIA include: Hamilton Road, Argyle, Hyde park, Downtown, and Old East Village.
As part of post-pandemic recovery, the London Community Recovery Network partnered with local BIAs and other key stakeholders to identify ways to create a stronger, more resilient, and connected post-pandemic London.
Ward 11 was left out of that conversation. A Ward 11 business owner shared with me that he had discussed previously our lack of a BIA and was told by another owner "we could benefit from one, but starting one is really hard".
With the lack of an engaged, accessible, community-building leader, Ward 11 business owners are being left behind and are having critical public investment dollars left on the table that they could access.
Although a City Councillor is bound by a local code of conduct and a provincial Municipal Conflict of Interest Act , I see no issue with becoming the Ward 11 councillor and continuing to connect people and build community as I have always done, with the goal of supporting the creation of an Old South BIA with no direct benefit to myself.
#2 - City services, programs, organizations and by-laws creating challenges to operation:
A local construction company owner that I met with in his driveway for 40 minutes shared a number of illuminating challenges he faces with creating and renovating homes in our city limits, as also mentioned in this previous blog post.
Another business operator discussed with me applying for $5,000 towards a $6,500 security upgrade that would conceivably end $80,000 worth of previous losses due to frequent break ins and theft of product. He told me that after three months; another break-in, and a change of manager to his application that told him the exact opposite of what the previous manager did; he withdrew his request for funding and simply paid for the security upgrade fully out of pocket himself. No break-ins since.
A third business owner described losing customers to his outdoor patio, a significant portion of his revenue stream, because of a city garbage can that sat metres away constantly being overflowing, and a request for a separated triple bin for garbage and both types of recycling having still been unfulfilled since November 2021.
A fourth business owner shared with me an identified opportunity to keep items out of landfill, and instead fix them at home and re-purpose them and put them back on the market for re-use. A neighbour who is unhappy with the noise of his tools has taken to reporting him to by-law for conducting operations at home that he is not "zoned for", and he reported having to do a cost-benefit analysis of paying by-law violations vs renting commercial space while scaling up his business as a side-venture to his day job.
A fifth business owner shared with me their frustrations at connecting with their neighbours in a flooded social media market, and having minimal community events in the neighbourhood focused mostly on crafting. She would like to have more opportunities to connect with neighbours and potential customers, and feels frustrated by the exclusivity of community events and organizations, sharing that "it seems to be who you know, not what you know or do."
In a time of high inflation and extremely expensive property costs, it will help Ward 11 small business if we elect a leader who is willing and proven to unite people, create new opportunities, hold others accountable, and be flexible and innovative in creative ideas. When we are facing 9% inflation, we should be able to safely identify and execute alternative revenue streams at home, whether they be growing and safely selling food, or fixing up and re-selling broken items of value.
We should have community organizations that receive public funding and city support be held accountable to the expectations of inclusivity and transparency when it comes to engaging and supporting their neighbours.
We should have city programs and staff that are accessible, transparent, and timely when it comes to supports and grants that allow our local owners and investors in our neighbourhoods to thrive.
#3 - Safety for local business operators
I spoke with a local Ward 11 variety store owner/operator who expressed his frustration with rising prices affecting profit margins, while his constant need to invest in security upgrades further chips away at his financial viability. When he calls for help for an aggressive customer, a shoplifter, or an after-hours break in attempt, sometimes someone is available to answer the call and other times the police are simply too busy. Owner-operators shouldn't feel like they're on an island and that their safety is in their own hands.
We need to support the London Police Service budget increaser request of 52 new officers on the streets to make some progress towards response times and making small business investment feel respected and protected.
#4 - A path forward
Too many people have invested significant chunks of their life savings and time into creating economic drive and employment opportunities in our local neighbourhood, and their concerns have fallen on deaf ears for too long. Elect a leader who won't spend time posturing and bickering on policy nuance on social media, and instead will spend time in the streets with their sleeves rolled up and their ears and eyes open, ready to help and to lend a hand on bringing our neighbourhood forward together.
We deserve a Ward 11 that is walkable, cyclable, full of mixed use residential and commercial development, that offers discovery-based shopping in a clean and welcoming environment, and that has safe and enjoyable city owned amenities.
I will endeavour to make Thames Park a more upgraded, clean, and inviting place for local shoppers to spend time before or after grabbing a coffee and essentials from Wortley Road shops. I will endeavour to unite business owners and fight for their rightful share of investment dollars.
I will endeavour to open up lines of communication between local residents and local events and small business.
I have heard preliminary support for the possibility of closing the commercial part of Wortley Road to cars on weekends and opening it solely to cyclists, walkers, dog walkers, and stroller pushers, to create a completely safe and inclusive third place for people to connect and enjoy what we have to offer. I will fight for you as residents, and owners as investors in our collective enjoyment of our neighbourhood and all it has to offer.
Vote for Jeremy on October 24th. You won't regret it.