Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

Convertus expands operations to Quebec with new waste processing facility

London-based waste-processing company Convertus is expanding with a new facility in Quebec, the company announced on Monday. Convertus will be partnering with Énergère, a Quebec-based energy company, to design and build a cutting-edge organic waste processing facility (rendering pictured) in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès, Quebec, and have signed a 20-year operating contract for the facility, which will convert up to 35,000 tonnes of organic waste annually into renewable energy through the production of biogas. “We are excited to contribute to the sustainability goals of Mauricie Region’s communities by providing an innovative organic waste management solution,” said Convertus CEO Michael Leopold. “Our full-service approach to designing, constructing and operating new organic waste processing facilities…ensures maximum resource recovery while minimizing environmental impact.”


The upshot: On the consumer side of things, Convertus is ticking along just fine in London, running the new green bin program. For the company, the Quebec expansion is their second major announcement in recent months: in April, it marked its first expansion into the U.S. market when it acquired a composting facility in Manassas, Virginia, part of an expansion push backed by the Dutch investment firm Convent Capital aimed at making Convertus “the largest and most advanced organic waste treatment company in North America.”  

Read more: Convertus | Waste Dive

Lacklustre spring housing market plods along as industry eyes rate cut to stoke demand

The London-area real estate market is just about out of runway when it comes to realizing any kind of spring surge. While listings continue to bump upward, buyers remain a fickle lot and sales remain relatively dismal ― particularly given the time of year. According to data from the London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR), a total of 774 homes exchanged hands in the region in May (the LSTAR catchment area also takes in Strathroy, St. Thomas and portions of Middlesex and Elgin counties) ― pretty much on par with the 710 homes that sold in April and a more than 10 per cent decline from May of last year (and a more than 30 per cent decline in volume compared to averages from 2015 to 2019). “We continue to see the trend of more new listings coming on the market, which explains the healthy level of housing stock across LSTAR’s region,” said 2024 LSTAR chair Kathy Amess. “In May, there were 1,563 new listings, slightly up from the 1,425 new listings in April, with an overall sales-to-new listing ratio of 49.5 per cent.” Given the tepid demand and rising inventory, it’s interesting to note that the average price of a resale home in the region is holding steady: $660,430 in May, a small bump from $656,037 in April.


The upshot: As a collective (realtors, mortgage brokers, lawyers, home stages, inspectors, movers, etc.), the industry is hoping this week’s move by the Bank of Canada to trim its overnight borrowing rate by 25 basis points to 4.75 per cent (and the prospect of further cuts) will stoke some demand. In a statement released this week, RBC Economics said the rate cut likely won’t cause the flood gates to open, but it’s a promising start. “The rate decrease won’t materially impact mortgage costs today, but the start of a downward trend may inspire new buyers to ramp up their home search efforts as confidence in the economy grows,” reads the report. “If you’re looking to buy, you’ll likely see an improvement in housing affordability and options.”

Read more: LSTAR | London Inc.

Westdell expands proposed Masonville development to three towers

Westdell Development is asking the city to approve plans for two more towers at the northwest corner of Richmond Street and Fanshawe Park Road, expanding on a previously-approved plan to build up on the site. The new proposal, unveiled earlier this week, would now see three towers on the Hyland Centre lot, kitty-corner to CF Masonville Place ― one of 20 storeys and two of 22 storeys. One would build up from where the Beer Store is currently located, while the other two would be located just south of the Michaels location in the strip mall. In total, the development would bring 563 units to market, plus expanded commercial and office space. “I would say this is a good place for high density,” said Councillor Corrine Rahman. “When I look at the access to transit, when I look at the fact that there is shopping and amenities nearby, this seems to make sense for where we have high density.”


The upshot: Between this and the myriad of proposals rolled out recently for the Oxford-Wonderland area, evidence would suggest that the best way to attract development in London is to plan, and then cancel, a BRT line to the area. Much like other proposed developments we’ve covered recently, Westdell is hoping to take advantage of the density-encouraging transit village designation in the area, which is left over from the BRT proposal for the area scrapped by city council in 2019. Unlike the Oxford and Wonderland proposals, however, traffic congestion seems to be less of an issue here, though Rahman told The London Free Press there are still “some concerns about traffic impacts.” Specifically, said she would like to see some above-ground parking moved below grade to reduce height. A city report on the proposal will go to committee on July 16.  

Read more: London Free Press

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London feted with music industry awards

London has been named the Music City of the Year at the annual Canadian Live Music Industry Awards this week. It was one of several pieces of hardware coming home to the Forest City. Rum Runners won the award for Best Teamwork in a Small Club, and Rock the Park Music Festival was named the Medium Festival of the Year. “I think it says what we’ve all known, that we have an incredible music community here,” Cory Crossman, director of the London Music Office, told CTV News London. “We excel at music in London. It’s a testament to our UNESCO City of Music designation.”


The upshot: Perfect timing for the city, which is about to kick off its annual Forest City Music Week next week, and a bit of a vindication for its efforts to have the city named Canada’s first UNESCO City of Music back in 2021. Also amped up was Rock the Park promoter Brad Jones. “We’re thrilled for all of our staff that worked so hard,” he said. “Many thank-yous. We’re absolutely over the moon. This is a great thing. We’re in our 20th year, so to be recognized after 20 years is pretty exciting.” 

Read more: CTV News London | Celebrity Access

McCormicks property owner apologizes for state of site, says redevelopment imminent

The owner of the very dilapidated old McCormick’s factory on east Dundas Street said they are sorry for letting it become an eyesore and are “aiming to break ground” on the site in the next year. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused over the past five years of negotiation,” said Cliff Zaluski, president of McCormick Villages Inc., which bought the property for a single dollar in 2016. However, for a variety of reasons, including a disagreement with city planning decisions from 2022 that is headed to the Ontario Land Tribunal this month, the site has sat in a state of increasing disrepair. The city has been hitting McCormick Villages with bylaw infractions around the state that the building has fallen into, and the developer said it plans to “take the necessary steps to bring McCormick Villages into full compliance with local bylaws, and start a long overdue journey.”


The upshot: While Zaluski said that “negotiations with the City of London are nearly settled,” and that they are nearing an agreement to develop a long-term care institution on the site (plans also call for a mixed-use mid-rise building and seniors apartment), all you can really do is take their word for it that they will actually get around to developing the site. In the meantime, residents are getting fed up with the poor security on the site. Twice last month, teenagers had to be rescued from the site after getting trapped either in, or on, the building. “I’m surprised nobody’s been killed over there yet,” one neighbouring business owner told CBC News London. “Somebody’s going to die. How much did it cost us taxpayers to have that aerial truck out there to save the kids?” One hopes that the OLT hearing will, one way or the other, clear the way for something to be done with the site.  

Read more: CBC News London

Workers at Original Cakerie ratify first collective agreement

After seven months of bargaining, the newly unionized workers at Original Cakerie on Innovation Drive have ratified their first three-year collective agreement. The workers voted to unionize in July 2023. More than 800 workers at the industrial bakery ― it produces 10,000 cakes a day, serving large grocery clients (including Costco) ― will see a six per cent wage increase this year, and three per cent in subsequent years. “I feel good about this,” said Brian Chapman, Unifor Local 27 president, talking to The London Free Press. “It’s a first collective agreement and it gives us a base to build on.” For its part, Original Cakerie said it was “pleased to have reached this agreement with Unifor and the workers at our London facility,” and that they “want to be an employer of choice in the community.”


The upshot: While some polling suggests that support for organized labour is higher than it has been in decades, union penetration rates in the North American private sector have been falling, and a number of upstart union efforts (notably, the high-profile Starbucks and Amazon campaigns) have struggled to turn successful organizing campaigns into actual collective agreements. Which is what makes the Original Cakerie story here a bit of an anomaly ― you don’t see new private sector unionization campaigns succeed like this that often. The agreement only passed with 60 per cent support of the workforce ― not a tremendous margin, but it gets it over the finish line. “First collective agreements take longer, and there are a lot of workers there,” Chapman said.

Read more: London Free Press | Unifor

Dispatch: June 7, 2024

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

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