Wonderful Waterloo Archive

This site is maintained by Sam Nabi as a record of the vibrant Wonderful Waterloo community, which was taken offline in 2014. This site is a partial archive, containing some posts from 2009-2013. To read more about the recovery effort and access the data in a machine-readable format, check out the GitHub page.

Waterloo Regional Enterprise Network Inc.

Post #39793
Unknown date
Unknown Author

Waterloo Regional Enterprise Network Inc.

A proposed locally owned corporation with a mission to achieve an optimal return for investors, while contributing to Waterloo Region's economic development.

Post #39794
10-05-2012 01:03 PM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
Here's a link to the New York Times article "A Town Creates Its Own Department Store" and the slides from Tuesday night's presentation.

Post #39795
10-05-2012 01:05 PM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
Let me explain for those who weren't there.

Waterloo Region has an economic problem, we're losing capital to other communities. If one assumes our contributions to the Toronto Stock Exchange are equal to the Canadian average then our citizens have $32-billion invested. Yet our local corporations are only worth $7-billion. Where's the other $25-billion? It's being used to fund Toronto's banks, retail, media & telecom sectors and Calgary's oil & gas industry.

Those outside companies might be fine investment opportunities, but they don't create job opportunities in this region, at least not to the same extent that locally based corporations would.

Not only does Waterloo Region's corporate community lack size, it also lacks diversity. Over 99% of our local market cap is based in the technology industry (Brick Brewing is the single exception). Don't get me wrong, it's great to have such a vibrant tech community here. That said, nobody should invest 99% of their RRSP in any one sector. The lack of diversity is forcing locals to invest elsewhere. Waterloo Region needs listed companies like Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Tire, Rogers, Pizza Pizza, Tim Hortons, Toronto-Dominion Bank, etc..

Speaking of the banking sector, imagine the benefit to our community if we could pull out our estimated $4.5-billion invested with the Big Six, to create the Bank of Kitchener. That would be twice the size of Edmonton's Canadian Western Bank. We'd have a tenant for the proposed office buildings at the Transit Hub

What if we sold our community's $3.5-million in Pizza Pizza units, and used that money to expand Pepi's Pizza?

Another issue is that many outside companies don't actually care about Waterloo Region.

They'll buy up our companies like Schneiders, then close them down putting 1200 of our citizens out of work and tossing away 100 years of our history. Waterloo Region needs a Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec which was able to prevent Rona from being purchased. Perhaps if Schneiders hadn't been bought by Maple Leaf Foods they'd have announced they're opening a new plant on the former Budd site, rather than moving to Hamilton.

We also have a retail issue in all of our cores. The City of Kitchener has invested $100-million downtown, there's been significant residential & office construction, and the Region is getting ready to build LRT; yet Fairview Park Mall got a $30-million renovation, and tens of millions are being spent for retail on Ira Needles Blvd. The City of Kitchener has been begging for years to get a grocery store downtown, but Loblaws and Sobeys don't care. I'd love the Region to put at least 50,000 sq ft of retail in the new Transit Hub, but I can't recommend that with 100% confidence while the commercial space at the Kitchener Market & Charles/Benton Garage sits underused (although I've heard good news is coming for the latter soon).

If we want a grocery store in Downtown Kitchener we're going to have to build it ourselves. If we want Downtown Kitchener to regain it's role as the major retail hub in the City of Kitchener, then we're going to have to rebuild that hub ourselves.

My proposal to create a community corporation is to help solve those problems. That's what they've done in Saranac Lake. Instead of having Wal-Mart suck profits out of their community, 600 citizens got together and opened their own business.

Why isn't there one in Toronto? The country's biggest city already benefits economically from being the headquarters of 100's of companies. From a community building standpoint, there's no question that Downtown Toronto is the dominant retail hub of the GTA. There isn't a need for a Toronto fund with a dual mandate to create wealth & contribute to the city the same way there is in Waterloo Region.

In order for a community corporation to get off the ground it needs a lot of active investors. People who are going to help build it, shop there and promote it. Where do you find them? It's the same people who care deeply about their community. They go to rapid transit meetings, they present at council, they attend Northdale open houses, they volunteer with the Cambridge Fall Fair & Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, etc..

Speaking personally, my great-great-great grandfather's home is a designated heritage property, and two of my relatives have been mayors. I have a lot of family history in the area and want the best for Waterloo Region.

In addition to active investors, a community corporation also needs good business ideas. One of the first ideas a few people would like to see developed is a Board Games Cafe. One opened in Toronto called Snakes & Lattes in 2010. It's been so popular they expanded last year and are doing renovations again this year. They have two thousand board games which they charge you a $5 cover to play for as long as you want. It provides a social alternative to a night out drinking. I'd recommend checking them out next time you're in Toronto. Snakes & Lattes is located at 600 Bloor St West, near the Bathurst Subway Station.

Of course all businesses have risks, but with lots of students and a large math/geek population in the area, a Board Games Cafe seems like a good fit.

There's a half-dozen people interested so far, with $50,000 to invest.

What we really could use are interested people who bring skills to the table: lawyer, accountant, realtor, construction worker, someone who's opened/managed a cafe in the past. These people also stand to benefit by collecting fees/wages from the business.

If this project sounds like something you'd like to help build then come out to the next meetings. Everything is open for discussion still, so if you have a good location in mind, a layout concept, or a good idea for a name, then those are the kind of things we'll want to discuss. Perhaps you have a good idea for a future business the community can work on.

I've booked the amenity room at the42 lofts for Tuesday November 13th & Tuesday December 11th from 7-8 PM. The address is 42 Bridgeport Road East, Waterloo. Buzz 149. Visitor parking is off Peppler Street. If you're taking transit, nearby routes include: 5, 7, 8, 35 & iXpress; with 35 & 7 being your closest options.

Hope you can make it and together we can get more local business happening in Waterloo Region!
Post #39802
10-05-2012 06:40 PM
Unknown Author

Urban Issues Moderator
Belmont Villiage
Joined Dec 2009
443 posts
The opinions expressed in my messages may not be the shared opinions of Wonderful Waterloo
E-mail me! - accessibility@wonderfulwaterloo.com
It's in my calendar. I'm interested.
Post #40540
11-13-2012 06:57 PM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
Tonight's the first public meeting. If you're interested in discussing & being part of business development in Waterloo Region come out to the42.

Here's another example to highlight the retail problem in our urban communities.

How many places would a male in his 20's buy a pair of jeans at in Downtown Kitchener? I count 1, Gloss. That's no better than 2006 when Eleventh Hour was where Shoppers Drug Mart currently exists. No progress in 6 years.

How many places would a male in his 20's buy a pair of jeans at in Fairview Park Mall? I count 16, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic, Bluenotes, Bootlegger, GUESS, Hollister, Jean Machine, Le Chateau, Mexx, RW & Co., Sirens, The Gap, West 49, Sears, The Bay.

1 versus 16, it's no contest. If a group of friends are looking to go shopping, they're likely to head to Fairview where there's a lot more selection.

What percentage of retail sales do you think Downtown Kitchener receives compared to the Fairview district? I don't have a statistic to point you to, but would you honestly say it's over 10%? I wouldn't and that's just pathetic.

My vision for Kitchener is to have downtown as the main retail hub in the city. A goal should be to see retail sales downtown at least 150% of Fairview. In other words, we need to grow retail sales downtown by at least 15X to satisfy me that it's the place to shop at in Kitchener. I can't emphasis enough just how big of a task this is. We don't need 1-2 new stores, we need 1-2 hundred new stores.

It's great there's new shops opening downtown. However some of them are just replacing other lost businesses, ie. the Ontario Street Boutiques used to be a Greek hub with the Acropolis Bakery. There used to be a furniture store at the Eaton Lofts. Some growth is happening, but it's nowhere close to being fast enough to meet the goal I've set out in my lifetime. Together our community needs to change our current trajectory.

We're about to enter the busiest shopping period of the year, the perfect time to do a direct comparison. I'm sure there will be 100s of people lined up at Best Buy for Boxing Day Sales at 5am. I'm sure there will be line-ups stretching outside stores at Faiview Mall. None of this sales traffic will exist in Downtown Kitchener, where we'll be lucky to see a half-dozen people in line at any one time. December 26th should break your heart as an urbanist in Waterloo Region.

I know I've just focused on Kitchener, but similar things could be said of UpTown Waterloo vs. Conestoga Mall & the Galt/Preston/Hespeler cores vs. Cambridge Centre.

We could look at building new businesses ourselves from scratch. We could look at setting up a local community version of Dragon's Den where we finance & support other's ideas. We have to do something though if we want our cores to be our main retail hubs again in the next 15-20 years.
Post #40548
11-14-2012 12:51 AM
Unknown Author

City Member
Joined Dec 2009
591 posts
Can't make it tonight but I hope to be able to come to future meetings.
Post #40553
11-14-2012 11:29 AM
Unknown Author

City Member
Joined Oct 2010
954 posts
Damn, you need to bump this thread with a bit more time to spare. (Not that I could have attended, I was otherwise engaged)

Note to self:
Next meeting Tuesday December 11th from 7-8 PM
Post #40632
11-15-2012 05:03 PM
Unknown Author

Urban Issues Moderator
Belmont Villiage
Joined Dec 2009
443 posts
The opinions expressed in my messages may not be the shared opinions of Wonderful Waterloo
E-mail me! - accessibility@wonderfulwaterloo.com
Unfortunately I couldn't make it but I am still interested in investing locally.

Where is the Dec 11 meeting planned to be?
Post #40635
11-15-2012 05:27 PM
Unknown Author

Village Member
Joined Jan 2011
54 posts
Quote Originally Posted by UrbanWaterloo
How many places would a male in his 20's buy a pair of jeans at in Downtown Kitchener? I count 1, Gloss.
Why is that?

People will shop where the stores are. What is it that is driving the stores out of downtown and into the malls? Is it taxes? Parking? What? There are places where it's different, where people go to shop downtown, not to the mall. What's different here?
Post #40671
11-16-2012 04:29 PM
Unknown Author

Town Member
Joined Sep 2010
342 posts
Whole books have been written on the flight of everything to the periphery of cities. I'm sure at some point there was a tipping point where more stores and services left a given core and then the slide intensified.

For example, consider that Kitchener and Waterloo had a large proportion of their industry near their cores and that most people walked to work. People walking back and forth to work passed various shops. In time, industry needed to expand, so they shifted to the periphery and people's commuting habits changed. Could stores not find the space downtown, but they found it on the periphery etc etc. What roles have governments played in leaving the cores? (ie office consolidation, post office closings etc) Everything is connected.

The WRIF sounds like a great idea. I'll be interested to see what kind of projects come about.
Post #40712
11-18-2012 03:55 PM
Unknown Author

Town Member
Joined Dec 2011
252 posts
Im definitely intrigued by this, both as a form of investment, but also as a way to help shape the region. Is there a fund manager currently?
Post #40918
11-27-2012 02:24 AM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
For now the default location of all meetings is the42 (42 Bridgeport Road East, Waterloo). It's just easier to have a regular meeting spot rather than constant rotation while we look at setting this up.

"People will shop where the stores are." - exactly. One of the purposes of this fund is to open stores in our urban areas so people start shopping downtown again.

If you agree that Kitchener's Fashion District should be in Downtown Kitchener rather than at Fairview Park Mall or The Boardwalk at Ira Needles then you belong here.

Local independents struggle for a number of reasons.

1) They don't have financing to expand/innovate. McDonald's can easily get a $100-million loan for expansion while local mom & pop stores don't have easy access to capital. Together we'll be community financing local projects rather than investing in companies that take money out of Waterloo Region.

2) They don't have the sales volume of large multinationals and therefore tend to charge higher prices. By building local chains we're hoping to be more competitive on pricing. For example I mentioned opening a Kitchener Denim store, but that doesn't have to start from scratch. Instead we could approach Uptown's
So what are these meetings about? They're to gauge local interest in community investing. To see if we have 10-20-30 people to get this off the ground. They're informal where you can come out, have a beer, and chat about business opportunities you see in Waterloo Region. There's no documents to be signed and no cheques to be written at this point. Everyone is welcome. If we have enough interest we can look at registering the corporation in 1Q2013. Personally I'm interested in investing $10K to get this going. My partner's also looking to put in $10K. He's a PhD student studying computer science at UW, so he'll be able to help out with any tech skills we need (ie. building a website with table registration for a board games cafe). We're going to start off small with a 6-figure project, but there's no reason we can't build this into something much bigger. If we're able to generate the same level of community interest as in Saranac Lake (~$100 per capita) then we'd be looking at $50-million. That type of figure isn't unheard of in this area. The
One Vision, One Voice Hospital Campaign raised $44-million last decade, and that was for a donation where you gave up your money immediately as opposed to an investment where you have a chance to grow your wealth. Let me clarify (before that's misinterpreted) we're not going after donation money though, we're going after investment dollars already in outside corporations. The hospital example is just to illustrate that large sums of money are available in this region.

One more frustrating personal note. Two friends, both Kitchener residents, are celebrating their birthday next month. Where are they going? Toronto. If you're tired of Waterloo Region being looked down upon as a place where "special" doesn't happen then WRIF is for you.
Post #41130
12-07-2012 03:23 PM
Unknown Author

Town Member
Joined Apr 2010
363 posts
Food for thought:

Post #41296
12-17-2012 08:16 PM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
The December 11th meeting went well. We have a dozen people who've shown an interest, all of whom are up for building a Board Games Cafe, so that will be our first project. It's a relatively small initiative to test this out.

One of our next steps will be to write a business plan for the board games cafe. I'll work on putting one together, however I'm also going to hold four working meetings starting in the new year.

Sunday January 13, 2013: 3-6PM
Thursday January 24, 2013: 6-9PM
Saturday February 2, 2013: 3-6PM
Tuesday February 12, 2013: 6-9PM

Some people mentioned they had prior 2nd Tuesday commitments for the first set of meetings, so I've chosen random dates this time in the hope everyone would be able to attend one. The first meetings were casual conversations. These will be 'working meetings' - so bring your laptop, as we'll be doing research and writing up our plan: budget, looking up specific properties, etc. For now they'll all be held at the42 (42 Bridgeport Road East, Waterloo - Buzz 149). We may choose to meet at a different location for the latter meetings in order to do market research - ie. interviewing students at WLU/UW, or visiting a potential cafe location. We'll post any changes here.

The next general meeting will be held on Tuesday February 19, 2013: 7-8PM.


I met with a lawyer this afternoon to set the legal work in motion.

Everything sounded good, as long as we're starting off with less than 50 investors - which is likely to be the case for our first project.

We're entering holiday mode now, so not much work will get done for the next two weeks. We'll likely hear back from him in early-mid January. The goal is to incorporate by February 1st, then we'll set-up a bank account, etc.

We'll need to decide on a few things:

Name of the Corporation

The proposal I've been using so far has been Waterloo Region Investment Fund or WRIF. It could work, but he thought it might be too close to RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund).

We could drop the F and do Waterloo Region Investment Corporation (WRIC). Is there a good set of words we could use with WRAP as an acronym? He also came up with: Waterloo Region Enterprise Network, Inc. [WREN].

We could just register as a numbered corporation - although that's kind of boring. This is basically a marketing question, do we go with one of the above suggestions, or do you have a better name in mind?

Board of Directors

We need to select a President, Secretary & Treasurer; although the latter two can be combined.

We also could use a few more directors. These are generally people who: 1) have an important skill, ie. legal/technology director; 2) good connections, ie. former politicians; or 3) own a significant portion of the corporation.

The board will be hiring a manager for the Board Games Cafe, looking into additional business projects, etc.

Let me know if you're interested in being a director.
Post #41470
01-05-2013 10:52 PM
Unknown Author

Hamlet Member
Joined Jan 2013
2 posts
This is a very interesting project that I'm interested in and will be following closely!

Is there a good set of words we could use with WRAP as an acronym?

Waterloo Regional Advancement Plan
Waterloo Regional Advocacy Program
Waterloo Regional Assistance Program
Post #41474
01-06-2013 02:37 PM
Unknown Author

Metropolis Member
Joined Mar 2010
2089 posts
Urban Waterloo: From your message, I take it that the investors are actually going to be the owners of the coffee shop rather than just investing in someone who is opening a shop of their own? What's the rationale?
Post #42510
02-20-2013 01:23 PM
Unknown Author

Hamlet Member
Joined Feb 2013
1 posts
I've been doing some research on the WRIF concept. It appears Victoria and Nova Scotia have employed similar models.

See: http://www.communitycouncil.ca/initiatives/cif.html

A key aspect to their success if a federal and provincial tax credit for investors:

"In financial terms, a Community Investment Fund (CIF) is usually a tax-incentivized equity investment in a community enterprise or group of enterprises. For example, people could invest in a CIF as part of a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or as part of a venture capital initiative and receive a tax credit. A multi-stakeholder, independent board then evaluates applications and invests money from the local CIF to local environmentally responsible and socially innovative businesses, cooperatives, community enterprises, or affordable housing developments. The CIF in turn provides investors a specific withdrawal date and a guaranteed rate of return."

They have been successful in Nova Scotia:

A relatively young CIF in Nova Scotia has already captured 2% of their region's RRSPs – in Greater Victoria, merely 2% of our RRSPs would redirect an astonishing $7.2 million into our local economy every single year. There is immense wealth in Greater Victoria, and we believe our region's citizens are amongst the most socially concerned and environmentally aware anywhere, so we're confident we could eventually capture double, triple, or perhaps an even a greater percentage. Imagine the impacts!

In 2012, the Victoria CIF is asking "the federal government to authorize the CIF as an RRSP-eligible fund, and we will ask the provincial government to provide its venture capital tax credit to CIF investors."

It appears, the CIF is a branch of a charity, rather than an independent entity on its own. But I don't see a reason why something like this can't evolve into something more independent.

As for names, I like the Waterloo Regional Enterprise Network (WREN).
Post #44948
06-06-2013 07:43 AM
Unknown Author

Joined Dec 2009
5693 posts
Local Investing in Waterloo Region - Amy Cortese

The Waterloo Regional Enterprise Network Inc. would like to invite the community to attend a speaker event on June 25, 2013 from 5-7PM. The event takes place at the Walper Hotel, 20 Queen Street South in Downtown Kitchener.

Our guest speaker is Amy Cortese, an award-winning journalist and editor who covers topics spanning business, finance, food, wine and environmental issues. Her book, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From it (John Wiley & Sons, June 2011), draws upon her experience covering these diverse realms to explore how a small shift in investment away from multinationals towards locally-owned enterprises can reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities and the country.