Special Report: Light Rail

A Hamilton Technology Company Co-Owner's Perspective on Light Rail

The promise of Hamilton as a dense, progressive, fun, interesting city is an incredibly important part of helping us attract and retain a highly educated, highly mobile work force.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published October 25, 2016

The following is the text of my delegation to the October 25, 2016 General Issues Committee meeting on Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

My name is Adrian Duyzer and I am part-owner of a software design and development company, factor[e] design initiative, located just a few blocks away from here. Although I support building LRT for many reasons, it's the perspective of a business owner that I wanted to highlight today.

My wife and I both grew up here and attended college and university here. We had a big group of smart, talented, educated friends in those school years. By the time I was 25, almost all of them had moved to other cities to seek opportunities elsewhere.

We stayed for many reasons. Chief among them is that our families live here. We wanted our children to know their grandparents, and vice versa.

But as a software developer, that choice wasn't an easy one for me. Hamilton's opportunities for technology professionals were limited.

So I went into business for myself. Like so many other Hamiltonians, my business partner Tyler Cowie and I decided to create a prosperous future here instead of going somewhere else to find it.

That story has been replicated hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and we can see the fruits of all that hard work. Our downtown is growing once again. Former Hamiltonians are coming back. New residents are arriving from other cities on a wave of national buzz.

Of course, that growing success is not just based on the efforts of individual Hamiltonians. You and your staff have played a key role. You have created the conditions we need to thrive: walkable streets, two-way conversions, tax breaks for investment in the downtown, and of course, a visionary, ambitious and fully-funded plan to bring clean, modern, rapid, light rail transit to Hamilton.

So let me pause for a second to say: thank you.

The promise of Hamilton as a dense, progressive, fun, interesting city is an incredibly important part of helping us attract and retain a highly educated, highly mobile work force. Many of our employees worked in Toronto and Waterloo and now have the opportunity to work here. That phenomenon writ large is a big part of why downtown Hamilton is our largest employment cluster, with 25,000 jobs and growing.

So it has been dismaying and disappointing that we have encountered such turbulence at such a late date in the process of making LRT a reality.

I'm not going to focus my attention on the claims the anti-LRT contingent have made, which range from the baseless to the cynical to the outright absurd. They have called LRT a train "from nowhere to nowhere". They have warned - and I kid you not - that earthquakes and sink holes will destroy the system.

Many such claims are driven by fear of the changes to the city that LRT will bring. The evidence shows that these changes will be incredibly positive for the city as a whole, but we also recognize that there will be challenges along the way.

However, choosing to renege on our commitments and cancel the LRT project would have much worse consequences. A billion dollars in LRT investment would go to a different city - a city Hamilton is competing with to attract young people, jobs and investments. We would lose out on thousands of local construction jobs and dozens of new residential, commercial and industrial developments along the LRT corridor.

We're still coming out of a long cycle of decline and disinvestment. Killing LRT would be devastating to Hamilton's businesses.

It would also be devastating to our reputation. The latest claim by those opposed to LRT is to say that the Memorandum of Agreement to build it was, essentially, meaningless.

How can we possibly expect to be able to negotiate deals for other major projects, such as the sale of West Harbour lands, if we're not as good as our word?

Lastly, another charge levelled against supporters of LRT is that, if we expect any benefit from building it, we should register as lobbyists. So I'd like to declare my conflict of interest in this matter. I want you to build LRT so that my kids have opportunities here in Hamilton when they grow up. I want you to invest in Hamilton so that they choose to start families here and so that I get to enjoy their company and, if we are truly fortunate, the company of their children too. And I want a future full of opportunities like that for my employees, for my friends, and for all the other citizens of this great city.

I'm asking you today to reject fear, uncertainty and doubt, to stand by your word to proceed diligently, expeditiously and in good faith to build LRT, and to work together, as one city, to make this project a success.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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