Signs of Life

Hamilton: City of Opportunity

McMaster's involvement in Hamilton's rebirth could be profoundly more transformative than UW's impact on the City of Waterloo.

By Keanin Loomis
Published September 06, 2011

I was told by someone I dearly adore in the administration at McMaster University that if I mentioned the University of Waterloo among some of her colleagues, I would elicit immediate ire. Apparently, the "W-word", as she put it, is verboten on campus.

Not being in academia, I don't truly understand the reason for the rivalry, but it probably has something to do with Waterloo's much-heralded success in driving commercial, as opposed to research, activity. It's a different academic philosophy that is getting a lot of political attention in our job-starved society.

The University of Waterloo has done a lot for the Region of Waterloo. In fact, it is Waterloo.

UW is the reason that the most successful technology cluster in Canada exists just up the road from us. It created a culture that spawned Research In Motion and Open Text and countless other successes that have added tens of thousands of jobs to our economy.

It's an elite trade school for the knowledge economy, and it can't be anything but good for Canada.

McMaster is a world-class institution that emanated from different circumstances and traditional pedagogy. The benefits to Hamilton over the course of its existence have been enormous and the economic impact to the community is immeasurable.

The research activity happening right here, right now is breathtaking and impacts the globe. This is a parallel success to the commercial activity that Waterloo has generated. Both strengthen our regional economies.

But politicians, being judged as they are on unemployment rates and economic output, are looking to duplicate the success of technology clusters like that found in Waterloo.

Premier McGuinty's government, with the recent launch of the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE), is hoping that this homegrown best practice can be transported to other population centres across the province, including here in Hamilton.

ONE employs Regional Innovation Centres (in Hamilton's case, Innovation Factory, where I am employed) to help small and medium technology enterprises leverage Ontario's institutional, governmental and private sector resources to create more jobs.

Though McMaster's orientation might be different than UW's, the institution will be critical to the success of this innovative public policy initiative here in Hamilton. Along with Mohawk, which is transforming itself in an impressive fashion, McMaster has so much to offer local innovators.

Newly-minted McMaster President Patrick Deane has focused intently on integrating Mac more broadly into the community, and this is where I get truly excited about Hamilton's future.

If energies wasted on resentment could be channeled into a healthy sense of competition, McMaster's involvement in Hamilton's rebirth could be profoundly more transformative than UW's impact on the City of Waterloo. That's because, in my opinion, Hamilton is a better city in which to work, live and play than Waterloo.

I have nothing against Waterloo. In fact, I spent six years of my life there and graduated from the finest institution in Canada (sorry Mac, alumnus loyalties will always trump). I had a ton of fun there, and my memories are fond. But once I graduated, I had no use for the city.

Ten years later, and despite all of the astounding growth and changes that have occurred, it's still too small, too boring, too land-locked, too Four-Oh-Oned. There probably aren't too many people living there who would disagree, and many would say that it suits them just fine.

However, among young professionals in particular - those that are driving innovation in that community - they're there because they have to be. Sure many of them would rather be in Toronto, but I believe that most of them could be persuaded to view Hamilton as the City of Opportunity. Especially the Future Hamilton that so many of us dream of.

For now, we have to take stock of our advantages and then figure out what we need to attract these people.

Surely low rents are be attractive. That's our greatest asset and, for a small or medium sized enterprises and their Ramen-fed employees, it decreases financial anxiety and encourages risk-taking.

A large clientele base is key. The KW market is dwarfed by the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Other large markets are easily accessed by land, air and sea.

A real city with established neighborhoods would meet the needs of the upwardly-mobile young urbanites that to propel the knowledge economy. We have those in spades.

So what are we missing? Each of us have our own opinions, but many are nearly universally held: light rail transit (LRT), real political leadership, a willingness to dream big and take risks, and business-friendly regulations - all of which will lead to the biggest need of all: increased private investment.

Sure, it's a long-term project, but it's one worth embarking upon. A decade after having graduated from Waterloo, it scarcely looks the same today. The change in that small community has been astounding, but would be magnified in this city of over 500,000.

With many of the necessary elements like McMaster in place, there's no reason that Hamilton can't duplicate and surpass Waterloo's success.

Even with some recent turmoil, the tale of start-up success rising out of a Mennonite backwater has been tremendous. Bringing grandeur back to a Canadian urban masterpiece would be an even more remarkable story.

This was first published in the August, 2011 issue of Urbanicity.

Keanin is the President and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

53 Comments

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 11:18:43

What are we missing?

MIA: Career Verticality/ProspectsFor Advancement

Many graduates of McMaster are developing expertise in fields that aren't strongly represented in the employment ecosystem. They can either start a company from scratch here using that skill set, or they can entertain lucrative job offers elsewhere.

MIA: Competitive Salaries

Along with Hamilton's lower cost of living is a salary base that is often proportionately lower than, say, Toronto.

The "greatest asset" of cheap rents is arguably related to those two shortcomings.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 11:53:56

You hit it on the head when you said "real political leadership, a willingness to dream big and take risks" sorely lacking i'm afraid.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 12:14:35

Thank you for posting this article to Raise the Hammer. It is interesting that you compare Hamilton to Waterloo because this same comparison has come up in conversation several times. A retired engineer and entrepreneur I met credits exactly that Mennonite and farming mentality with the rise of Waterloo: hard work, independence, and can-do attitude are by-products are part of this mentality and have served the surrounding community well. Hamilton, on the other hand, due to its own history as a place of manufacturing, has more of a union mentality: do your hours, get your pay, don't need to think creatively.

I do think that cities have unique identities based on their histories, geography/location, and demographics, and some of these are working against Hamilton at present. However, as you say in the article, we have location and natural beauty in our favour. What I am hoping now is that enough new people have grown up here and moved here who can over-ride the negatives.

On a personal note, I find that RTH helps a lot in this regard. It is heartening to connect with others who seem to have a similar outlook, and similar frustrations, about the direction of the city.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 12:31:45

Hamilton might want to consider taking a cue or two from its business-minded neighbour across the bay, specifically the 10-year-old Team Burlington initiative that housed multiple key orgs at one central, highly visible address, amking coordinated and efficient .

http://tourismburlington.com/about-burlington/team-burlington

Right now, Hamilton has:

• Hamilton Chamber of Commerce on the floor above the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club (555 Bay St N.)
• Downtown BIA in the eighth floor of the Union Gas Building (20 Hughson St. S.)
• Tourism Hamilton in the street-front of the Pigott Building (admin) and Jackson Square Food Court (service bureau)
• Hamilton Economic Development on the seventh floor of City Hall (71 Main St. W.)

It would make far more sense to centralize all of those entities (as well as EcDev's related youth entrepreneurial arm Hamilton Hive) into one of the the Yale vacancies (maybe the Bank of Montreal building at 1 James North, maybe the Robert Thomson Building at 110 King St. W., both of which lease out at a third the square footage cost of Lister) and focus on visibility, accessibility and measurable results based on strategic plans. Hamilton has been infatuated with buzzwords-du-jour and warm PR fuzzies for too long. That's nice, but it's no way to build an innovative city.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 15:24:12 in reply to Comment 69093

... and here's a great wish-listy component of a business-innovative complex:

A next-generation collaborative workspace where emerging entrepreneurs can put their heads together to make sparks fly.

http://grindspaces.com

I'm all for tall-walking mission statements, blue sky imagineering symposiums, networking socials and homegrown hashtaggery, but at a certain point the rubber has to meet the road.

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By Imperial (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 21:55:34 in reply to Comment 69107

Haven't seen this one before Art Brut. Much like the facility we'll be launching before Christmas, right in downtown Hamilton.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 08:51:07 in reply to Comment 69194

Good to hear. The self-replicating cocktail chatter forums and resulting echo chamber buzz probably has a finite utility. I'm probably not alone in hoping to see entrepreneurial practice in, well, practice. Hopefully on a peer-funded private sector model like Grind, one that is self-sustaining, a groundbreaking argument for business by business, utilizing the best practices, connections and experience of the city;'s best and brightest and not simply a novel expression of public funding whack-a-mole (ie. "a workforce planning organization that is a catalyst for economic and labour market development, building solutions and engaging multi-stakeholder alliance" or "a not for profit social enterprise committed to assisting community groups and organizations as they access and implement new technology," operating independently from the bubble of public money). One can dream.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 12:48:59 in reply to Comment 69093

Eurgh. "..making them coordinated and efficient."

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 12:37:17 in reply to Comment 69093

Hamilton moving in right direction with consolidation of all business services on first floor of City Hall: One stop service for small businesses. But broader point well taken.

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By artist (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 13:00:59

> Surely low rents are be attractive.

I moved my small arts-based business from Hamilton to Toronto and now save 50% of my overhead costs each month. And many other headaches. Unfortunately, Hamilton isn't really that cheap, and for the dollars spent, its value is much lower than elsewhere. Hamilton landlords are scummy.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 10:50:43 in reply to Comment 69096

That's the same complaint I've heard from others - Hamilton's offices and storefronts are overpriced and underserviced compared to our housing and economy and customerbase. The local landlords basically throw up their hands and say "this is Hamilton, what do you expect?" at any problems, but charge prices that contradict that mentality.

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By RB (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 13:35:59

Rents might be cheap, but property tax and auto insurance is absolutely through the roof.

So, it's an ideal place if I want to rent and take the bus... hmmm... interesting...

Like stated above, the rents might be cheap, but when there is no return on your investment, little money lost is still money lost. It might be expensive in TO, but at least there are enough people with enough money to keep you floating.

The desire might be here in Hamilton, but without the means to create an economic impact, desire means nothing. Yet...

On a side note, a question for people much smarter than me: Why is auto insurance in Hamilton more expensive than ANYWHERE else in the GTA? And yes, I've had a handful of brokers/underwriters tell me that Hamilton is the most expensive, but none have told me why.

Anyone?

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 22:49:18 in reply to Comment 69098

I disagree. When I lived in Toronto I had to use my relatives address in stoney creek because my rates were going to go up substantially. Plus groceries, dog licence, eating out, transit, and clothing were all more. I couldn't wait to get back here. Oh, and my renters insurance (contents) was higher as well.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 13:48:08

Hamilton could also use a confidence-inspiring, proof-of-promise resource like this:

http://www.techtriangle.com/top_employers

Rather than this sort of uninformative fudging:

http://www.investinhamilton.ca/downtownbia/demographics-statistics

It would be interesting to see if Fortinos ended up in the city's private sector top ten.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 16:23:14 in reply to Comment 69099

Top 10 Private Sector Employers in Waterloo Region = 24,508 jobs
Top 10 Public Sector Employers in Waterloo Region = 25,872 jobs

Top 10 Private Sector Employers in Hamilton = approx 12,000 jobs
Top 10 Public Sector Employers in Hamilton = approx 45,000 jobs

It's a cloudy picture, but here's what I gather it looks like, give or take.

TOP 10 PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYERS IN HAMILTON

• Arcelor Mittal Dofasco Inc: 4,200
• US Steel: 1,900
• Orlick Industries: 1,104
• National Steel Car: 1,100
• Tiercon Industries: 700
• Blue Line Taxi: 650
• Fluke Transportation Group: 500
• Oakrun Farm Bakery: 500
• Hamilton Spectator: 510
• Taylor Steel: 450

If you factor out US Steel, Coppley Apparel Group’s 357 employees move up to the 10th spot.


TOP 10 PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYERS IN HAMILTON

• Hamilton Health Sciences: 10,000
• City of Hamilton: 7,100-9,400
• McMaster University: 7,500
• Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board: 7,300
• Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board: 4,400
• Federal Government: 2,746
• St. Joseph’s healthcare Hamilton: 1,572
• Mohawk College: 1,258
• Provincial Government: 600
• St. Peters Health System: 500
• Horizon Utilities Corporation: 400+



http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/medt/investinontario/en/Pages/communities_majoremployers.aspx?mun_name=3525005&topic=2
http://foundlocally.com/hamilton/HR/Jobs-Employers.htm
http://www.ccemployerofchoice.com/registry_city_hamilton.htm
http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/staff/
http://www.myhamilton.ca/organizations/hamilton-wentworth-catholic-district-school-board

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 06:38:57 in reply to Comment 69112

Excellent data, thank you for digging these numbers up. I wad interested in comparing #6 on both lists, Feds vs. Blue Line taxi. What does a taxi driver make leasing a vehicle every year compared to a Federal employee?

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By RB (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 16:44:29 in reply to Comment 69112

Wow... that public/private ratio is f*cking depressing.

For a city of 500K, our top 10 private sector jobs only hits about 12K??? Wow...

It's painful even to read.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 14:02:28

Also important to acknowledge that other neighbouring cities may appear more appealing to young professionals and companies on the rise:

From MoneySense’s Best Places To Live 2011 [http://www.moneysense.ca/2011/03/29/best-places-to-live-2011]:

03 Burlington
30 Oakville
31 Waterloo
32 Mississauga
74 Hamilton
80 Brantford

Burlington ranked #30 on that study's Job Prospects chart. Hamilton came in at #82, coincidentally between Kitchener (#78) and Waterloo (#87).

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 13:46:41 in reply to Comment 69100

Burlington is 3? I can see for companies - somehow a 1-floor office park located on North Service Road is the thing to have... but professionals? I just can't understand the desire to live in suburban sprawl. I like living in a place.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 22:44:25 in reply to Comment 69177

I am sure that you like to live in a place. However there are so many more people in our society who want that single family house. I can sure understand that it is not for everybody and certainly is not for you, the masses however disagree with you. Burlington has miles and miles of exactly that, single family homes. Those that can afford it live there. Many cannot and move further away from Toronto, some as far as Kitchener and Waterloo.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 17:11:05 in reply to Comment 69177

I hear you. Not my thing either, but I’m guessing that the thinking is that you can still live in a nice place (say something south of Plains Road, potentially with a waterfront view) and be a 15-minute drive from two major downtowns. That’s arguably better than living in, say, Glanbrook, and being 25 minutes’ drive from one.

Like Hamilton, Burlington has small historic villages as part of its makeup – places like Aldershot, Nelson, Kilbride, Zimmerman, Nassagaweya, Tansley, Lowville and Appleby, settlements dating to in many cases to 1800-1840 period. By the 1870s, Burlington ran from Guelph Line to Brant, New to the Lake, with a column north to the rail lines (circa Plains Rd). It kept growing, but not by much -- it was density that it had going for it when, in 1958, it annexed the larger land masses of Aldershot to the west and Nelson to the north.

Hamilton wasn’t always so big, either. Here’s a Hamilton transit map from September 1959, for sake of comparison – with density effectively going no further south than Mohawk Road and no further east than Nash:

http://mappery.com/map-of/1959-Transit-Routes-of-Hamilton-Harbor-Map

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 17:15:31 in reply to Comment 69191

BTW, the other interesting thing visible on that transit map is the industrial infill of the harbour.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted September 06, 2011 at 16:01:06

Of that list I would live in Hamilton, Waterloo, maybe Oakville. Would never consider living in Burlington or Mississauga. This raises an interesting point. I want to live in a city. I don't feel that Hamilton enjoys the benefits of a big city, but it suffers many of the problems. When cynicism (or pragmatism) grips me I comment that Hamilton has "small town drawbacks with big city problems."

Hamilton's big city problems are real. Poverty, pollution, infrastructure issues, high property taxes, byzantine business bureaucracy, street treated mental health, bank abandonment, random property crime and murder.

So why does Hamilton still suffer small town drawbacks like no real movie choices, limited theatre experience, tiny arts community, paucity of venues, absence of cafes, everything closed by 9pm, etc?

I do believe it is our own fault. I think that we are quite average in Hamilton and happy with that. Our aristocracy is well below average. Our media is too overworked, too afraid or too bought to bring us to task for our shortcomings as a community. And when they do it is often the small and defenseless that are skewered. We yell that something is a success when really it is a failure. Our lame and ineffective enjoy comfortable adulation. This lack of critical assessment keeps us living in a small town. Yet we enjoy none of the benefits of a small town.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 01:52:20 in reply to Comment 69109

Nonsense.

Our crime rate is amongst the lowest in the country and we just had our second murder of the year.

Every one of the so called problems you mentioned that we have in this city are much worse in most other top ten cities in this country.

You seem to be suffering from what many others in this city are, misconceptionitis. Your perceptions aren't reality.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2011 at 19:30:40 in reply to Comment 69202

Not complete nonsense. Maybe a bit of hyperbole. :) The gist of the post is that Hamilton has big city problems without big city benefits. Furthermore there are cities that enjoy as diverse a cultural experience as the Hammer, but enjoy a complete ABSENCE of big city problems.

The worse misconception is that this small town Hamilton is actually some kind of big city player. When it is not.

Poverty in Hamilton is real. Property crime in Hamilton is real. Try building something in Hamilton, zoning nightmare. Try getting a business loan North of Cannon Street. Ward two has more supported living facilities than Carl Sagan can count. Compare those facilities to Oakville, Burlington, Guelph, and Brantford combined.

Now compare your property taxes to, get this, Vancouver and Toronto. Oh boy, it don't look so good when you consider cultural diversity and experience.

And you are correct about the murder rate being low in Hamilton. Maybe if it were higher we would all be better off ;)

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 17:08:16 in reply to Comment 69109

I don't think our murder rate is quite as bad as some of the other shortcomings you've mentioned, and personally would have left it off the list.

However I agree that Hamilton lacks some of the amenities you can find in other cities, such as the mentioned cafes and movie/theatre options (and why don't we have a Red Lobster? We used to have two in the city, now the closest one is Burlington and it's always packed, you're telling me there are no franchisees insterested in Hamilton? Not a single one? I'm positive this city could support a single red lobster location at the very least.)

As an example of what you're talking about, it has always surprised me that Concession Street - just up the mountain, located on several bus routes, and near a large residential population - doesn't have more to do in the evenings/weekends. It's getting slightly better, but a significant portion of the street has become a "mini-medical precinct" with doctors, labs, and related businesses popping up. Unfortunately nice places to eat at are limited or non-existent, the only movie theatre they had is now closed (and even when open was poorly attended), and all the stores close by 5 or 6 pm.

I think you may be right about people being "happy with being average", which is unfortunate.

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 16:37:14 in reply to Comment 69109

"I think that we are quite average in Hamilton and happy with that.... We yell that something is a success when really it is a failure. Our lame and ineffective enjoy comfortable adulation. This lack of critical assessment keeps us living in a small town."

It's a malaise that Tyler Brûlé has memorably referred to as "the comfies":

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2008/06/11/does-tyler-br-251-l-233-hate-toronto.aspx

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By good lord (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 18:14:28

We are like a small town because thats what the majority wants. Funny thing, not everyone wants to live in a live in a large overcrowded impersonal environment. Many if not most enjoy the fact we keep our small town feel AND have many of the benefits of a larger city.

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 22:09:27

The notion that "we are quite average in Hamilton and happy with that" makes me pause since it might just nail what really ails us. Where do we go from here?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 00:40:00

First of all, I can think of many reasons why those in academia might be hostile to a more commercially-focused university. The purpose of universities and academia is knowledge, not employee-training and product development for the private sector. When economically attractive areas get this kind of attentions, others inevitably lose out, and that generates a lot of conflicts.

As far as "opportunity" and "innovation" go, Hamilton really isn't a city with any existing industry in fields like smartphone development. Just like everyone else, though, we're becoming focused on a few high-paying white collar jobs as saviours of our civic economy, but I have to wonder how many cities, so far, have managed to actually succeed at becoming 'the next silicon valley'? In general, Richard-Floridistic arguments tent to be fairly narrow and superficial (ie: economic development rates in terms of how many indie-rock shows an area has...), as well as unbelievably elitist.

What does Hamilton have to offer a "knowledge economy"? We can actually make things. We can have designs machined out of high-quality steel by the end of the day and delivered to one's doorstep. We have a large population of people trained to do this. Why not take advantage of that? Everyone loves the notion of the "Silicon Valley Startup" breaking way from the big bad (and hopelessly ineffective) corporation and forging their own innovative path. Why is this sort of thing so rarely talked about with blue collar work?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 22:53:56 in reply to Comment 69141

I think universities have fully realized where the research dollars come from, and any conflict between "pure" and applied academics is just something they know they need to learn to deal with. Maybe the traditional purpose of universities used to be knowledge, but today that knowledge and research has much more practical application and they've evolved to take advantage of those opportunities. I think it's a logical progression.

I agree about the Florida types. They speak in such grandiose terms, and essentially advocate a silver-bullet approach when you break their case down to its basics. Breeze into town, give an inspiring talk about future possibilities, but then fail to discuss how that picture really fits into the reality of the city's situation. The Knowledge Economy is vast, and it means something different to different places. In our case, we don't need to be the next Silicon Valley. We need to be the next Hamilton, building on traditional strengths with the next wave of innovation and perhaps creating new areas of focus by exploring new ideas. McMaster is solidly tapping into two such streams - materials science, and medical research. Hamilton has a rich history in both areas, and advancing the technology and practice in them is a natural evolution. But either one, alone or together, won't likely be enough to put the city on the boomtown map, definitely not in the short to medium term. There has to be a balance of growth in other sectors, both new and existing ones, to ensure a diverse and strong local economy.

Mac has been doing its part. I'd like to see the city take bigger steps in doing theirs. Are there other Hamilton strengths that are not being grown or re-purposed to advantage? Are there niches we should be looking into, instead of trying to emulate what other places have been doing?

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2011-09-07 22:57:01

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 10:27:12 in reply to Comment 69197

Mac has been doing its part. I'd like to see the city take bigger steps in doing theirs.

Mac has only just begun to do its part, finally, although it would be nice if part of that 'part' didn't include the wholly unnecessary destruction of an iconic downtown building. Good on them though, for reaching out.

The city was doing its part, but our current leadership is determined to undo much of the progress of the last few years. Agreed. They need to start doing their part again.

The big missing piece here is our public school board. They are blithely pursuing policies that are actively damaging to the lower city, and hence our ability to provide jobs for the future generations we are paying them to educate. As long as the board continues to harm our city's ability to revitalize, Hamiltonians will be essentially subsidizing the work forces of competing municipalities.

Comment edited by highwater on 2011-09-08 10:28:22

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 22:51:20 in reply to Comment 69212

McMaster's "part" started long ago when they began building renowned engineering and medical faculties. The innovation park and medical research facilities that have/will connect more directly with the community and its economy required a critical mass at the departmental level. They still have a lot to do, I agree.

I will also agree that the city has been doing its part when we see more widespread and concrete examples of progress. Great strides have been taken over the last 10 years (and even the past 5) by the economic development department, and they should be commended for that. But there's so much more to be done, and it will take years to achieve that after decades of city leaders failing to move Hamilton in new and positive directions.

So from my point of view, Hamilton has just started laying the foundation for success, and there's a long way to go. We'll know the city is getting there when we start seeing some real changes in the demographics of the workforce, when there's enough gravity in the sectors that are being targeted that we see growth in secondary/supporting industries and businesses, when news that Hamilton is "top 10" in some journal's list of places to do business is no longer news, and when other cities are holding summits and inviting our local officials to make presentations on successes and lessons learned.

The ebbs and flows at the political level are going to affect that of course, but I hope things can stay on track despite the apparent lack of leadership and focus at the top.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 08:00:45

This is the kind of article that fascinates me most. And it's the best reason I can think of for having 'salons', get-togethers where you can actually discuss this sort of stuff. (I'll say again that an increasing bunch of us have been getting together for coffee, to put faces to names, to throw ideas around, etc. If you're interested, drop me a line at mystoneycreek@gmail.com)

To me it gets into the arena of 'imagining the next iteration of Hamilton', and while none of us (?) are 'movers and shakers', to me if your residents aren't interested in imagining their neighbourhoods, their communities, their city, then why should anyone else?

I think there are some pretty simple answers to some of the questions. (I know I could respond to the cinema points.) Societal trends, local particulars, traditions, habits, etc. I don't want to go on a tirade here, so I'll limit myself to a single response:

We are like a small town because thats what the majority wants. Funny thing, not everyone wants to live in a live in a large overcrowded impersonal environment. Many if not most enjoy the fact we keep our small town feel AND have many of the benefits of a larger city.

The funny thing about this is that the people who want this 'small town feel' wouldn't be affected by, say, increased commerce on a street like Concession: they'd just carry on as usual, not wanting to partake in 'big city options'. As for the notion that 'this is what the majority wants'...I think that's an inaccurate extrapolation...mostly because you have to factor in inertia, apathy and indifference. It's one thing when people choose not to partake (don't they actually relocate if they're that unhappy with how things have changed?), but it's another when they've not really been presented with the options.

In fact, I reject the connotation of Hamilton being a 'small town', because it slams the very notion of Hamilton being an urban centre, which, despite how you may feel about the downtown at the present moment, the truth is that it's always been 'the big city' in the area between Niagara Falls and Toronto. We just happen to be in a state of transition. (I feel compelled to add that it's absolutely possible to have the best of both worlds within an amalgamated city such as Hamilton, the 'comfy small town' and the 'vibrant big city'; one of Hamilton's biggest pluses is its range of neighbourhoods.)

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By TnT (registered) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 09:43:09

The reason IMHO, is that blue collar work is seen as kin to dirty, menial labour. The environmental, h&s, generational impacts are seen as negatives not goals for our children aspire too.

Comment edited by TnT on 2011-09-07 09:43:55

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 14:14:57

Another slice from Statistics Canada's Census of Labour Force 2006:

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, HAMILTON
Manufacturing: 42,525
Health Care: 30,390
Retail Trade: 29,595
Construction: 12,435
Professional & Scientific: 12,735
Wholesale Trade: 12,020
Transportation: 11,740
Finance & Insurance: 9,745
Real Estate: 9,745
Agricultural: 3,725

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, BURLINGTON
Manufacturing: 12,000
Retail Trade: 10,735
Health Care: 8,160
Professional & Scientific: 7,905
Wholesale Trade: 6,855
Finance & Insurance: 6,240
Transportation: 4,125
Construction: 4,120
Real Estate: 1,980
Agricultural: 460

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, MISSISSAUGA
Manufacturing: 56,190
Retail Trade: 41,420
Professional & Scientific: 33,160
Health Care: 26,855
Wholesale Trade: 28,575
Finance & Insurance: 25,795
Transportation: 27,335
Construction: 18,090
Real Estate: 8,230
Agricultural: 755

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, TRI-CITY TRIANGLE
Manufacturing: 54,765
Retail Trade: 26,215
Health Care: 19,315
Professional & Scientific: 14,615
Finance & Insurance: 13,395
Construction: 14,185
Wholesale Trade: 12,120
Transportation: 9,460
Real Estate: 3,880
Agricultural: 1,040

http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/medt/investinontario/en/Pages/communities.aspx

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By Art Brut (anonymous) | Posted September 07, 2011 at 15:07:53 in reply to Comment 69183

Accidentally pasted Hamilton's Finance & Insurance stats onto its Real Estate sector. Should read:

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, HAMILTON
Manufacturing: 42,525
Health Care: 30,390
Retail Trade: 29,595
Professional & Scientific: 12,735
Construction: 12,435
Wholesale Trade: 12,020
Transportation: 11,740
Finance & Insurance: 9,745
Real Estate: 4,515
Agricultural: 3,725

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, BURLINGTON
Manufacturing: 12,000
Retail Trade: 10,735
Health Care: 8,160
Professional & Scientific: 7,905
Wholesale Trade: 6,855
Finance & Insurance: 6,240
Transportation: 4,125
Construction: 4,120
Real Estate: 1,980
Agricultural: 460

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, MISSISSAUGA
Manufacturing: 56,190
Retail Trade: 41,420
Professional & Scientific: 33,160
Wholesale Trade: 28,575
Transportation: 27,335
Health Care: 26,855
Finance & Insurance: 25,795
Construction: 18,090
Real Estate: 8,230
Agricultural: 755

TOP 10 EMPLOYMENT SECTORS, TRI-CITY TRIANGLE
Manufacturing: 54,765
Retail Trade: 26,215
Health Care: 19,315
Professional & Scientific: 14,615
Construction: 14,185
Finance & Insurance: 13,395
Wholesale Trade: 12,120
Transportation: 9,460
Real Estate: 3,880
Agricultural: 1,040

http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/medt/investinontario/en/Pages/communities.aspx

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 16:59:53

Perhaps we're looking at the small town question from the wrong angle. When is a small town no longer a small town? Many in Dundas or Stoney Creek could answer this question, as well as Caledonia, Milton or Ajax. In most cases it's the appearance of suburban-style development, just like Mystoneycreek mentions - tract housing, big box stores and strip malls. Before long, populations baloon and there's little if any farms or greenspace between them and the area's other urbanized areas, and your town is more than a neighbourhood than anything else, part of something far bigger than a single city.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2011 at 22:06:51 in reply to Comment 69190

When is a small town no longer a small town?

When it loses its heart? : )

Dundas-proper is still a 'small town'. But then, you go west down Governor's Road...and it ain't no longer.

The 'authentic' Stoney Creek is still 'small town'; I refuse to acknowledge Fruitland, Winona or 'Upper Stoney Creek' as being 'Stoney Creek'.

But I love the question. It would make a great topic at a salon.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 19:16:22

Insider info tells me that a nursing home purchased the old Stoney Creek Dairy land. The plan is for a very large 5 story u-shaped building. There are no zoning change notices posted yet. I guess the good news is that there will be some employment there.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-09-08 19:19:24

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2011 at 18:02:11 in reply to Comment 69269

The plan is for a very large 5 story u-shaped building.

I find this sad...but then, my original proposal was more community-based.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 17:52:11

Interesting business editorial in the Spec today. http://www.thespec.com/news/business/art...

I found myself agreeing with many of the points the writer makes. Investing in people and the things needed to support them and provide the environment to succeed is very important.

We seem to do a lot of talking about "game changing" ideas in Hamilton, but many of the things that can have the largest impact over the long term involve making incremental changes.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2011 at 14:59:14

Remember when $30 million in city money could get you $1 billion in spin-off benefits, including a direct economic gain of $126 million? Seems like only last election.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/192950--hamilton-closer-to-cleaning-up-its-image
http://www.waterkeeper.ca/2007/11/16/randle-reef-cleanup-ball-in-city-court

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