Resilient. Innovative. Supportive. Dynamic.

By Rachael Luby, Communications Specialist, London Economic Development Corporation

These are just some of the terms that Kapil Lakhotia, President and Chief Executive Officer at the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), would use to describe London businesses and the local economy during COVID-19. A graduate of the Economics program (BA ’02) and a former professor, Kapil is an active volunteer on the King’s Board of Directors, currently as Vice-Chair of the Board. After completing his master’s at the University of Waterloo, Kapil returned to King’s to teach economics before working at the LEDC. Starting as an intern, Kapil worked on a project to model economic impact from civic investment in industrial infrastructure. From there, he joined the Business Development team and played a key role in attracting several investments, including Dr. Oetker, Original Cakerie, Arvin Sango, and Natra. Now as President and CEO, he continues to lead business and workforce development activities, attracting large-scale investments including Maple Leaf Foods.

In the face of these changed times, Kapil and the LEDC team have supported many businesses as they shift gears to support relief and recovery efforts. From pivoting production of beverages to hand sanitizers, to manufacturing essential personal protective equipment (PPE), London companies are helping to combat COVID.

“London has a very diversified economy, so we are often in a better position to be resilient during hard times. We’ve seen a lot of growth within the manufacturing and agri-food sectors in London recently,” says Kapil. “Several businesses including ANVO Laboratories Inc. and Aspire Food Group have invested in London to build new facilities.”

This is also true for many companies at the local level that have experienced growing demand for their products and services, such as Nuts for Cheese and CARFAX Canada entering into the U.S. markets, LBMX hiring several positions to develop new products, and technology companies including Big Blue Bubble, Digital Echidna, and Northern fueling team and product growth due to acquisitions and mergers.

The retail, hospitality, and tourism industries have been hardest hit across Canada. Within downtown London more businesses have opened than closed, with 14 new restaurants and retailers setting up shop since March. Companies and customers are also stepping up to help these retailers. Whether it’s adding eCommerce capabilities, webinars on digital transformation, or creating virtual directories to shop local, there’s a collective sense of pride in the community that we are all in this together.

“A lot of this growth has also sparked hiring at several of these technology, professional service, or agri-food companies that need talent to help them keep up with these new business opportunities,” says Kapil. “It’s why LEDC and our partners delivered the bi-annual London & Area Works job fair virtually to ensure employers still had the opportunity to share opportunities that are available.”

The job searching and hiring process looks different in this new virtual world. Now jobseekers and employers are meeting online and are sharing resumes and opportunities in real time. Recruiting is happening over video platforms and many careers are starting or staying remote to embrace the work from home model. It’s a new reality that Kapil is thrilled to see that King’s is embracing and for which it is helping its current and future students prepare.

The Life After King’s program is one example, bringing alumni who are established in their careers back to King’s to speak with current students. These sessions offer opportunities for students and alumni to realize their potential career paths and develop their professional networks. It’s a program with which the LEDC is proud to be involved to highlight many of the hiring employers there are in London. LEDC is also supporting the new King’s Promise initiative, which will guarantee students a job within their first six months post-graduation through program participation or a return to King’s to take additional courses.

“It’s important for employers to be able to hire local talent, and for graduates to find careers after graduation. It’s why LEDC works closely with King’s to develop and support initiatives like this to help bridge that gap,” says Kapil.

When he reflects back on his time at King’s, Kapil most appreciates the hands-on, interactive learning experience the school offered him, and how the smaller class sizes created an environment where it was easy to connect with classmates and professors. It’s an experience that helped prepare him for his current role and one he encourages current students to take advantage of, even in this new virtual world.

“Stray a little outside of your comfort zone to expand your interests and experiences - you never know which one may stick and make an ideal career choice,” says Kapil.

You can learn more about Kapil, the LEDC, and how London businesses are stepping up by visiting ledc.com.