Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

VersaBank receives approvals for U.S. bank acquisition

London’s VersaBank is close to officially entering the U.S. market after the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency both approved its 2022 acquisition of Stearns Bank Holdingford, a small bank branch in Minnesota. It’s two of the three approvals needed for VersaBank to begin operating in the U.S., the bank says ― it will need Canadian regulatory approval as well. CEO of VersaBank David Taylor said that “completion of this acquisition would enable VersaBank to broadly launch our unique and attractive receivable purchase program in the United States,” which would allow them to “further capitalize on the significant operating leverage in our branchless, business-to-business digital banking model.”


The upshot: VersaBank first announced it was acquiring Stearns Bank Holdingford for $13.5 million back in 2022. Though small, Stearns Bank Holdingford would give VersaBank a door into the entire U.S. market from which it could expand its receivable purchase program, which has been successful and profitable in the Canadian market. Last quarter, VersaBank reported a 15 per cent growth in net income. In its financial reports, Taylor said that the acquisition “represents a significant opportunity to drive total assets to transformative levels.”  

Read more: Newswire

Fowler Kennedy opens first off-campus clinic

The internationally renowned Fowler Kennedy clinic opened its new sports and exercise medicine clinic on Wonderland Road South last week. The new location is the third Fowler Kennedy location, but the first located off-campus ― it has one at Western and one at Fanshawe. The clinic’s executive director Sarah Padfield said the new location will increase their capacity by about a third. “We have the capacity for three primary care doctors every day,” she said. “We have a capacity for four physiotherapists every day, and orthopedic surgery consults.”


The upshot: The move off campus aligns with Fowler Kennedy’s aim to take its rehabilitation services to a broader base, Padfield said. The physiotherapy industry has grown considerably in recent years as well ― a growing number of high school athletes are seeking physio services, as are weekend warriors and everyday folks. “If you’re even struggling to do something as basic as walk thirty minutes, we’d like to see you,” Padfield told CTV. 

Read more: CTV News London

Innovative supportive housing project set to begin

There’s funding behind a plan to redevelop a former south London long-term care home into 50 supportive housing units, clearing the way for work to begin. The city is working with Developing for Change, a team of four large developers ― Auburn Developments, Drewlo Holdings, Sifton Properties and Tricar ― to redevelop 46 Elmwood Place into a first-of-its-kind supportive housing development that will be managed by Indwell. “This project is a prime example of how different partners can come together to create meaningful change for those who need it in our city,” said Mayor Josh Morgan. The proposal just requires the city to release funds, something that it will (likely) do after it approves the plan at a June 25 council meeting.


The upshot: Funding for this project is coming from all sorts of places, including $2 million from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund and another $5.7 million from the community-led Health and Homelessness Fund for Change. There’s also some money for operations (up to $500,000 annually) being chipped in by the city. Supporting housing projects can be difficult to get off the ground, for reasons relating to funding and resident pushback, but the city seems to have found a good candidate in this proposal. Work is expected to begin this summer, with the aim of getting people moved in by next year. “All of us here are city builders,” said The Tricar Group’s Adam Carapella (pictured). “And we know that all types of housing are needed for a city to be truly prosperous.” 

Read more: CBC News London | CTV News London

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London Chamber announces finalists for 2024 Business Achievement Awards

The London Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalist firms for the 2024 Business Achievement Awards, to be held September 25 at RBC Place London. This year’s finalists represent the broad spectrum of our local business community — everything from technology and professional services firms to a host of specialized manufacturers and food-and-beverage firms. Over the past few months, a line-up of volunteer BAA judges have reviewed and reduced a list of nominees to 24 finalists in nine categories. While hard statistics like revenues, employment growth and bottom-line results are all important criteria in selecting the finalists, other qualities like innovation, people and culture, business initiatives and building on a stronger community are equally critical.


The upshot: The annual BAA gala is the crowning event of London’s bustling business calendar, and the event — which this year marks its 41st anniversary — has grown to become the largest of its kind in Canada. Also included in the BAA program is the Corporate Icon Award, given annually to a business that has demonstrated a substantial long-term contribution to the economic progress of the London community. Unlike other BAA awards, the Corporate Icon Award is announced in advance of the awards gala, and the Chamber said it will announce this year’s recipient shortly.

View finalist firms: London Chamber

Developers warn increased construction permit costs will affect affordability

The homebuilding sector is warning that a city staff-recommended five per cent increase to apartment building construction permit fees, and a two per cent increase on new townhouse developments, will ultimately work against affordability, at least a little bit. The proposed increases would see the permit fee on townhouses increase from $11.14 per square meter to $11.37, while the apartment increase would take fees from $8.88 to $9.32 per square meter. “Every time there’s a cost increase, it affects affordability,” CEO of the London Development Institute Mike Wallace told The London Free Press. “It goes directly to the people purchasing the property.” London Home Builders’ Association CEO Jared Zaifman echoed what Wallace was saying, although sounded a bit more understanding. “We saw much higher numbers that were concerning,” he said, of consultations over the fee increases with the city. “Staff did what they could to reduce it.”


The upshot: It’s important to note that we’re not talking about hikes to development charges here, where costs to developers per unit range from around $19,000 per apartment to around $44,000 for a single-family home. The cost increases here are much smaller in absolute dollars. But the dynamic at play between the city and developers is the same: increasingly cash-strapped municipalities need to pay for their operations, while developers rightly point out that buyers are ultimately paying for costs incurred upstream. In the case of the City of London, there was about a $3-million gulf between what it cost to run the permitting office and what they brought in via permit fees, and the city says that it wants to use the additional revenues to add 14 staff to the building department, with the aim of increasing the speed at which permits are approved.

Read more: London Free Press | City of London

Workers at Original Cakerie ratify first collective agreement

The first four locally made armoured combat support vehicles (ACSVs) destined for Ukraine rolled off the General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-C) assembly line this week to much fanfare from the builder and government officials. General Dynamics was tasked with building 50 new military vehicles as part of Canada’s $650-million aid package to Ukraine announced last September. The four vehicles are being shipped to Ukraine in the coming days; six more will be shipped in July. Forty more are set to be sent, but there’s no set timeline on those. In 2022, GDLS-C delivered 39 vehicles to Ukraine.


The upshot: The ceremony marking the completion of the first four vehicles was a convenient opportunity for politicians and military figures both to talk up GDLS-C work, as well as engage in some light sabre-rattling in support of the Ukrainian army. “We know that these vehicles will save lives, and we are incredibly honoured and humbled to support the brave women and men of Ukraine as they fight for their security and democracy,” said GDLS-C vice president Alejandro Monahad. Local MP Peter Fragistkatos said that “we cannot allow Vladimir Putin’s regime to establish a precedent,” and added that “if he is allowed to win in Ukraine, he and other authoritarian leaders could very well replicate that whole approach.” 

Read more: CBC News London | Canada.ca

Dispatch: June 14, 2024

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

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