Comment 5424

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2007 at 13:49:23


Hemson's logic is a self-fulfilling prophecy. they assume (without actually making a case) that Hamilton's best future job growth prospects are in low-skilled warehousing and transporting, and then recommend that the city cultivate "employment lands" that are positioned to attract companies that do warehousing and transporting, after which time only jobs in warehousing and transporting will be available. QED, kinda.

The whole point of a long-range economic plan is to position your city to create the kinds of jobs you want. If Hamilton wants minimum-wage jobs in the middle of nowhere, that's what it will get. Those jobs will be pretty much useless for bringing people out of poverty, since they will pay low wages and will suck up a huge proportion of their workers' incomes for transportation to the aerotropolis.

If Hamilton wants skilled jobs downtown and makes the necessary investments and changes to its regulatory structure, it will get those jobs instead. Instead of spending tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars converting farmland into low-density industrial land, the city could be using that money to clean up its brownfields and make them available.

It could be sitting down with Mac and Mohawk and really listening to them about how to cooperate to generate a hub of innovation and investment instead of blowing them off, as Dave Braden argued in a recent interview with Maggie Hughes.

It could be announcing to Canada and the world that it wants to be a leader in finding sustainable ways to generate and conserve energy, including ways to retrofit existing buildings to be more energy-efficient, since 90% of the buildings we're going to have in 25 years already exist today.

These areas will attract the kinds of investors and innovators who generate real economic growth, and they will produce many labour-intensive, skilled and highly skilled jobs in many small, locally-based businesses that will have a stake in helping revitalize their communities.

It's not hard to imagine how the city, Mac and Mohawk, and the local school boards could work together to develop training and apprenticeship streams that offer children in poor neighbourhoods real prospects. HWDSB Education Director Chris Spence is already talking about a stronger focus on apprenticeships for skilled jobs - a field, by the way, that's going to have a severe labour shortage in coming years as a whole generation of skilled tradespeople retire.

Remember, this a long-term plan: many, if not most, of the people who will be taking those jobs in 20-25 years are just being born today. A comprehensive, flexible economic strategy to create the conditions in which innovation happens (rather than trying to force this or that particular technology) will mature and bear fruit just as a parallel education strategy is turning out skilled apprentices.

This is what an economic development plan is supposed to do: set goals and then work toward making them happen - not just passively, despairingly accepting the defeatist premise that tomorrow will be like today, only more so.

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