Party and event
Editorial: The miraculous Mike Wood
In these terrible times, one man has risen up to don the hero’s cape.
By Patrick Flannery
Trying times demand a hero and Mike Wood has emerged as one for the Canadian event rental industry, and Canadian small businesses generally. What Wood has accomplished since the start of the COVID pandemic is little short of miraculous.
Wood is the owner of Ottawa Special Events, an event rental store providing mainly staging, lighting and sound solutions for public events around the city. He was the cover boy on our March 2020 issue, which turned out to be eerie timing as it was at the same time the pandemic hit and turned Wood’s life in a totally different direction, at least for now.
Like every other event rental operation, Ottawa Special Events’ business went from whatever it was to essentially zero in a matter of weeks. Like every other event rental store owner in the country, Wood was looking glumly at an entire lost season of sales, with no prospect for the concerts, festivals and other live events he depended on happening. Unlike everyone else, Wood decided to take action – public action.
He started calling local politicians and media. Just calling them, saying he needed to talk to them about what small businesses were facing in the lockdown. This bore fruit in the form of an invitation to appear on a local radio show, Afternoon Drive with Kristy Cameron. As a former rock musician (he still teaches music at Algonquin College), Wood is comfortable on a microphone. And we media types don’t like to work too hard. Having shown himself to be an articulate spokesman on the topic of COVID impact on small business, Wood’s phone started ringing. He quickly lost count of the TV and radio hits as he was asked to guest and host roundtables discussing small business challenges over and over.
At the same time, politicians started to take notice. A conversation with his local city councillor turned into a suggestion to call his MP – who happened to be Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Apparently that call went well.
Since, Wood has registered as an official lobbyist and chalked up meetings with over 16 MPPs including Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape. He’s presented to the federal and Ontario Finance Committees and appeared as a witness at the Ontario Bill 215 committee creating COVID relief legislation for Ontario small businesses. He’s squeezing a conversation with me in this week around his meetings with the federal NDP finance critic and Sarkaria. You’ll get to see that conversation, by the way. We’re recording a video interview to release as part of the Rental Mart on March 8.
Wood isn’t getting paid for any of this. It comes from his distress at having to lay off about half his staff and watch the business he built since 2009 languish. He’s obviously had some good luck to make such high-level connections, but his energy, passion and hard work are impressive. In these dark days for the industry, Wood is the hero we need.