Media

Hamilton on TVO's The Agenda

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 26, 2014

Last night's episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVO included a 25-minute segment on the nascent renaissance in Hamilton, featuring a panel discussion with Marvin Ryder, Professor of Marketing at McMaster University, Jeremy Freiburger, founder of Cobalt Connects, and your humble RTH editor.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 13:54:18

I watched the episode. Let me give you the real reasons for why Hamilton has been turning a corner:

1. Lower business taxes. 15 years ago we were not very competitive on taxes. Now we are.
2. RHVP, highway 6 to airport and greenfields industrial land. Go for a drive through the Ancaster business park and Red hill park and see for yourself.
3. Expanded economic development department that is inline with surrounding communities.
4. Good efforts by city hall to reduce red tape in business attraction.
5. Dt renewal thanks to initiatives above, Go Train and conversion to two-way traffic (even though this is still way off being complete)

This builds on some of Hamilton's natural advantages helping to drive growth:

1. Proximity to GTA and US border but with much cheaper real estate than GTA.
2. A city with very functional airport and port.
3. Good services that other nearby cities don't have. We have hospitals, universities, colleges, stadiums (arenas) to hold events.

Can anybody think of others?



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By Lerfy (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:19:39 in reply to Comment 97954

1 ) as a business owner, this is BS. Taxes don't worry me, it's having access to customers and access to a good pool of skilled workers who can afford lower wages than in Toronto because the real estate's cheaper.

2 ) Highway 6 was helpful, RHVP was a waste -- there were better proposals that could have done the same thing and not cost taxpayers tons of money in legal junk that's still going on, and not cost us what was one of the best hiking and biking destinations in Southern Ontario. We can never undo that.

3 ) Yes, yes, and yes. Ecdev in Hamilton is first rate.

4 ) See 3)

5 ) See 4)

and in the second set...

  1. Helps a lot.
  2. Still haven't found any use for the airport. I have my doubts it will ever grow in its current state, or in any larger state for as long as Pearson is so quick to get to on the 407.
  3. What mythical cities are you dreaming up that don't have those?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2014 at 12:04:42 in reply to Comment 98165

there were better proposals that could have done the same thing and not cost taxpayers tons of money in legal junk that's still going on, and not cost us what was one of the best hiking and biking destinations in Southern Ontario. We can never undo that.

I think it's important to repeat that. Too often the urbanists and environmentalists and whatnot of Hamilton get seen as loonies for opposing the RHVP because a high-speed connection between the East Mountain and the QEW was absolutely needed. The entire mountain desperately needed that connection, since the entire Linc/403 through Hamilton/Aldershot was unusably congested at rush-hour before the RHVP, not to mention Centennial parkway. Too often in the retroactive debate on this it gets lost that there were alternatives that would've made everyone happy that somehow got steamrolled in favour of building a continuation of the Linc blasting through the valley.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 04, 2014 at 11:24:58 in reply to Comment 98165

1 ) as a business owner, this is BS. Taxes don't worry me, it's having access to customers and access to a good pool of skilled workers who can afford lower wages than in Toronto because the real estate's cheaper.

2 ) Highway 6 was helpful, RHVP was a waste -- there were better proposals that could have done the same thing and not cost taxpayers tons of money in legal junk that's still going on, and not cost us what was one of the best hiking and biking destinations in Southern Ontario. We can never undo that.

Yep. Numerous studies have confirmed exactly this. Quality of life and a good pool of skilled workers (many of whom no doubt attracted and/or retained by the QOL) are far more critical to businesses' location decisions than low taxes and other financial incentives.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2014 at 11:29:00 in reply to Comment 98177

Do we want a race to the top or a race to the bottom? It's that simple.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 04, 2014 at 11:34:42 in reply to Comment 98178

And do we want to accept the evidence, or continue to blindly follow conventional wisdom?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2014 at 11:38:36 in reply to Comment 98179

Or as Glen Murray put it last Friday, do our leaders have the courage to speak the truth at the risk of losing votes?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 16:21:26 in reply to Comment 97954

People

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 15:37:33 in reply to Comment 97954

A world-wide renewal of urban neighbourhoods and downtowns is also helping us, although we are doing our best to stifle it by not moving an ounce on bringing complete streets downtown or investing in LRT like all of our competing surrounding cities. If we see another 4 years of no vision after this next election, I suspect we will see a reversal of fortunes as K-W, Miss/Brampton, TO and Ottawa all open their new LRT lines and begin hauling in a far larger % of the young professionals looking to locate somewhere with a higher quality of life and less dependancy on cars.

Higher than all of these items you've mentioned is the risk-taking entrepreneurs who have invested in our old neighbourhoods to open new galleries, cafes, shops, apartment/loft conversions etc.....

Personally I would scrap #4 and 5 off your list. Red tape is as bad as ever for an urban business owner. Box stores and outlying drive-thrus have it good, but they always did, so no change there. GO Transit has had 4 trains per day for years and still does. Again, no change there.

Also, you're bang on about the port and cheaper real estate. The airport is a complete waste of time IMO. It's dying a slow death. Eventually I suspect it will become purely a cargo airport, which is still good for the economy.

But urban transportation initiatives such as LRT, protected bike lanes, and green complete streets are the investment we should be falling all over ourselves to make right now, city wide.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 16:51:39 in reply to Comment 97956

"Higher than all of these items you've mentioned is the risk-taking entrepreneurs who have invested in our old neighbourhoods to open new galleries, cafes, shops, apartment/loft conversions etc..... "

It is the reforms that Hamilton introduced which induced this risk-taking and level of entrepreneurship.

"The airport is a complete waste of time IMO. It's dying a slow death. Eventually I suspect it will become purely a cargo airport, which is still good for the economy."

Don't 3,000 people work there? You find that a waste of time? Every city n Canada would kill to have our airport.

"GO Transit has had 4 trains per day for years and still does."

Ever ride the GO bus?

Your fixation on LRT is very tired. Nothing like having to change buses and wait for the LRT in minus 20 weather. I'll take my car every day of the week and so will 95% of Hamiltonians.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:09:50 in reply to Comment 97964

I'll take my car every day of the week and so will 95% of Hamiltonians.

This is perfect. Thing of beauty. You've had bad experiences on public transportation before. You were cold and you had to wait and you didn't like it. So therefore you think LRT is stupid and you prefer to take your car.

AND FURTHERMORE, IT IS OBVIOUSLY TRUE THAT 95% OF HAMILTONIANS FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME WAY YOU DO, AND ALWAYS WILL, SO HELP YOU GOD.

Love it.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 19:56:30 in reply to Comment 97964

"I'll take my car every day of the week and so will 95% of Hamiltonians."

Then do so. But, whatever you do never, ever, ever complain about traffic congestion because you know its caused by 95% of Hamiltonians who like you are wheeling around town in their cars.

p.s. I don't believe 3,000 people work at the airport. Either a made up number, or a number that encompasses a very wide geographic territory not remotely influenced by the airport's existence.

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By Lerfy (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 21:21:18 in reply to Comment 97981

I have doubts that there's ever been 3,000 at the airport at any time, let alone working there.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:02:16 in reply to Comment 97981

I never complain of traffic congestion in Hamilton because there isn't any. Therefore LRT will be useless.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:57:21 in reply to Comment 98013

Oh totally.

I mean, it'll attract investment along the core, it'll improve the speed, reliability and quality of commuter transportation within the city, it'll increase the density of land use in the lower city thereby helping to increase the city's tax base and support expensive sub- and ex-urban infrastructure, it'll improve neighborhood vitality and air quality, it'll be a huge boost to people's perception of what Hamilton is and what it's capable of, and it'll just generally make the lower city a much cooler place to live...

But aside from all that, yeah, useless. Boondoggle. Might as well install a frickin' monorail.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:55:38 in reply to Comment 98013

Wow, that's short sighted and very un-capitalistic.

I'm not an LRT supporter, but just because it doesn't exist today doesn't mean it won't exist in the future.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:56:02 in reply to Comment 98020

Traffic congestion that is.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:02:00 in reply to Comment 98021

And before I forget Capitalist, please provide backup/link for your claim of 3,000 people working at/around the airport.

Don't think I'm taking you on too much as I support the airport's existence and proper expansion and management (not the AEGD), but think it's been managed to maximize profits for a few and leave taxpayers empty and certainly not representing 3,000 jobs.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 16:38:48

So, I'm guessing Steve Paikin just drives through downtown. Hopefully, after this session the next time he's in Hamilton he puts the car in park and takes a stroll around downtown.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 19:52:22 in reply to Comment 97962

I don't think it's entirely fair to dismiss his concerns. Main and King are the 'main' streets in our downtown. They are horrible. If you drove into Detroit and landed on Main St, you wouldn't dream of parking your car and getting out. Ditto for Jackson Square. Yes, it's improving compared to 10 years ago. But it's still got a loooong way to go. It's much better now than even just a few months ago with the new Works Burger, Nations, Starbucks etc..... If Steve was in Jackson a year or so ago, I can totally see his vibe.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 23:38:05 in reply to Comment 97980

His estimation of the JS vacancy was totally off. I disagree with your year, or so, ago depiction of JS as well. There was a business were Starbucks is, as well as where Works is, and the Nations space was in transition from the Farmers' Market re-location. Prior to the FM relocation the space where Nations is was well segmented from the rest of the mall. Perhaps his apparent ignorance was just an interviewer's ploy to foster dialogue.

Then again, I have parked my car in Detroit gotten out, walked around and even purchased bourbon through plexiglas...

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:54:27 in reply to Comment 97996

I agree, I think a lot of the comments about Jackson Square were completely inaccurate. There are still empty storefronts a plenty in Jackson Square. The strip around Nations, the corner store by the LCBO, where the Deli at the Square used to be, the 2nd Foodcourt outside the Farmers Market, just to name a few off the top of my head. That's completely apart from the liquidation store hub that is nearly the entire city centre.

Second, the mall is NOT busy at all hours of the day. After 6:00pm the place is a ghost town, despite the mall itself being open. Just about everyone but the Sheraton, the Cinemas (both whose buisness model requires them to stay open at later hours), Tim Hortons, Nations and the some of restauruants that open onto King St have shut down, whereas if you look at other major commercial centres in the city (Meadowlands, Limeridge, Eastgate) the norm is 9:00pm.

I'll agree, it's better then it was, but Jackson Square is still a second grade shopping centre at best.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2014-02-27 10:57:25

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 09:49:11 in reply to Comment 97996

Lol....good stuff. His vacancy estimation was actually darn close to accurate if he was unaware of Nations. That's an entire wing of the mall that has been closed for years. He would know that being from here.

I agree things have started to get better, but I don't think Hamiltonians are wise to simply dismiss his (or other visitors) impressions. Our downtown simply does not make a good impression at all. James North is better, James South/Augusta is good, Locke South, Hess, even King William. But the main streets one uses are barren and pretty bad. Sadly, city hall likes them this way.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:43:37 in reply to Comment 98007

Depends if you count the Nation's space as rentable area for all those years, which I don't as it was removed from rentable area and closed from access. Saying a mall is 25% vacant conjures up the vision of 'For Lease' signs in every 4th store front and that certainly hasn't been the case in JS in the last number of years.

Even so, his 25% vacant comment is at least 8 months out of date, 18 months from announce date of Nations Foods locating in JS.

Also, his comment about a house worth $1.5M in Toronto could be had for $250K is about 5 - 6 years out of date. Marvin even corrected him with the $350K number which is far more accurate.

I won't argue that there's a way to go in Hamilton, especially on the primary streets, but I thought he showed ignorance for a guy who likes to promote the fact he was raised in Hamilton and visits and who's brother is a developer.

Again maybe that's his interview style to foster discussion, but my guess his visits to Hamilton are focused primarily on Ancaster/Dundas areas and not James North, Locke, Ottawa Street, etc.

Heck, he threw out Hess Village as a his prime example of rejuvenation in the downtown area. With that I rest my case.

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 21:02:47 in reply to Comment 98009

I think Steve Paikin has a better idea about what's going on in Hamilton than he let on in this discussion. My take was that he was deliberately taking the position of being the 'outsider' to help his audience better understand Hamilton and keep the discussion going.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2014 at 21:25:06 in reply to Comment 98084

That's the sense I had, too.

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By kevcom2 (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 18:52:58

Good job Marvin, Ryan, and Jeremy! Way to represent the city by promoting its best aspects! I look forward to more of these interviews - people must be exposed to the Hamilton beyond the Skyway Bridge.

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 20:55:12 in reply to Comment 97976

I agree. I thought each of them represented Hamilton very well. Excellent discussion.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 26, 2014 at 21:10:35

Here's one: A legacy manufacturing base with the skilled people and support businesses that enable manufacturing to thrive.

The company I work for exports manufactured goods to mainland China. That's world class!

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 13:35:49 in reply to Comment 97989

Cool. What's it called?

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By The Economist (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 01:12:40

Here is the real reason for the improvement.
Forget about Hamilton's natural advantages. They always existed and we were still down in the dumps.
The real reason is a period of sustained low, very low, interest rates together with record migration of people into Toronto that has now spilled over into Hamilton.
Low interest rates fueled a housing boom.
Prices in Toronto hit the roof.
People are moving to Hamilton for affordability.
Low interest rates have allowed the economical building of new condos and the renovation of old buildings.
The flip side is - beware of higher interest rates.
It could do to Hamilton what it did in the 80's & 90's - bankruptcies, foreclosures, higher taxes, blight, flight from Hamilton.
Stop patting ourselves on the back.
We did nothing innovative but respond to the low interest rate phenomenon.

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 17:22:28 in reply to Comment 97998

I have to agree as well. Most of Hamilton's revival has to do with how unaffordable Toronto has become in recent years. However, there's something to be said for being in the right place at the right time and doesn't mean that Hamilton shouldn't the make the most of this opportunity.

As a business owner, I can tell you that it far easier to deal with other municipalities compared to Hamilton. This city needs to shed it's big labour/union mentality and become the type of place that encourages investment and entrepreneurship.

We're ideally positioned for growth provided we create the right type of environment for businesses and employers to succeed.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:06:26 in reply to Comment 97998

Have to agree with Steve, though higher interest rates would certainly halt or damper the current wave of growth and revitalization happening in and around downtown.

btw. kudos to Ryan and Jeremy for representing Hamilton so well on TVO.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-02-27 16:06:41

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:53:08 in reply to Comment 97998

I agree to a certain point, but I think you've oversimplified your position.

People (like me) who moved from Toronto to Hamilton and took advantage of low property rates typically haven't saddled themselves with large amounts of debt, so are more able to handle increased interest rates if (when) they come.

Also, the commuter outflow mentioned by Marvin, while not ideal, has diversified the income base in Hamilton so the local economy is not reliant on one, or 2, large local employers who cripple the local economy when they reduce workforce in the face of economics.

Finally, the inflow of new residents have put 'new blood' into the Hamilton area and with it diversity, innovation and strength.

In the 6 years I've been in Hamilton, I've seen a slow and steady improvement in my neighbourhood and in much of city even in spite of some big setbacks/poor'ish decisions.

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By Hornby (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:17:36

Well then, good thing thing the LRT isn't planned just for you. Tens of thousands have already been identified that will benefit greatly from it.

And never mind all the ancillary positives of LRT that you ignore, you'd rather wait for congestion to hit Hamilton, rather than plan for the future, preventing it.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 12:22:36

Love hearing the sense and optimism from Ryan and Jeremy. Optimism is important and the positives are great. I do have trouble with the "you can do anything" in Hamilton line. Some very elite few can do anything profitably with very strict guidelines. New, creative business in adaptive heritage properties is just what I do and have had no end of blow back from bureaucracy.

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By agree (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2014 at 20:09:27

Agree. Well done guys.
Represent!

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted March 05, 2014 at 17:22:46

Finally got to see this in its entirety. Big ups, Ryan. That was solid. Good panel, all 'round.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted March 07, 2014 at 11:45:48

According to TradePort statistics, "since 1996, TradePort and its partners have invested $179M and generated 2,876 person-years of total employment. Found here: http://flyhamilton.ca/passenger/news-med...

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