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Hamilton Economic Development

Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – February 2013

In the February 2013 edition of Hamilton Highlights…

  • Celebrate Success in the City
  • Looking for Companies to Help Students “Crawl”
  • It’s Happening Here!
  • Hamilton Firm B Certified
  • BNN Looking for ‘The Pitch’

Click here to read the February 2013 Hamilton Highlights newsletter.  If you are interested in signing up for the Hamilton Highlights newsletter, click here.

Agribusiness is big business

Touring the grain handling facilites at Port of Hamilton was an eye-opening experience for Dan Inksetter of Ancaster.Somewhere between the fields of his family’s Ancaster hobby farm and the shelves of his local grocery store, Dan Inksetter lost sight of what happens to the corn and soybeans they grow.

What happens, it turns out, is their grain becomes part of a multibillion dollar value chain connecting businesses across the country and around the world — with Hamilton as a key link.

Inksetter was part of a group of 30 young members of Grain Farmers of Ontario who toured grain handling facilities at the Port of Hamilton recently as part of a leadership development program.

During the three-day program they visited grain processing and handling facilities across the province, including the Richardson International grain terminal in Hamilton.

The recently expanded Richardson plant is a trans-shipment point for grain moving along the chain. Every day trucks rumble into the Eastport Drive terminal loaded with grain from Ontario farms which is dumped into a pit and then elevated onto a ship for movement to anywhere in the world.

“Where it goes from the grain elevator is really interesting,” Inksetter said. “It’s eye opening.”

Getting more eyes open to how food moves from the farm gate to their dinner plate has become a priority for Canada’s agricultural sector — only about 2 per cent of the country’s population is actively involved in growing the country’s food supply.

McKenna Roth, communications co-ordinator of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said even within the industry there’s a growing need to connect segments of the business with each other.

“So much of what we do now is specialty that people aren’t connected to other aspects of the business,” she said.

Just within Ontario, Roth said, grain production occupies 28,000 farmers working 5 million acres creating $9 billion of economic activity that stretches from farms to fuel refineries, to bakeries, flour mills, cattle and chicken farms, and many other activities.

In what used to be known as The Steel City, agriculture is big business and it’s getting bigger — Hamilton farmers brought in gross receipts of $224.8 million in 2008 according to a sector profile prepared by the city.

In a piece written for The Spectator’s Hamilton Business Magazine in July, economic development director Neil Everson put that value at $1.3 billion and accounts for about 4 per cent of the city’s employment, the bulk of it, 6,000 employees, in manufacturing and distribution.

Grain, wheat, corn, soy beans, rye and other crops feed 50 food processing plants in the city including companies such as Bunge (edible oils), Canada Bread (North America’s largest commercial bakery), Cadbury and Karma Candy and Oak Run Farm Bakeries. Also, considering most of the grain grown here actually goes for animal feed, it’s important to the work of Salerno Dairies and Maple Leaf Foods’ 500,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art meat-processing facility building built on the east Mountain.

On the transportation side there are also companies like Parrish and Heimbecker, Richardson International, Sylvite Agri Services and Westway Terminal and Feed Products.

That’s only a slice of the 190 companies employing more than 8,700 people in the city’s agribusiness cluster.

Richardson, which the Grain Farmers of Ontario group toured, has been one of the sector’s leaders in recent years. In 2008 and 2011 the company invested millions of dollars to expand its Hamilton capacity by more than 50 per cent.

Grain transportation is also becoming an important business for the Hamilton Port Authority as it moves through an aggressive drive to attract $500 million in new investment by 2020. The drive, started in 2010, was conceived as a way of weaning the port from its reliance on steel industry traffic.

Steel and steel-related cargo remains the port’s largest single sector of business, but it’s not a growing segment. Grain shipments, however, have grown more than 35 per cent since 2008. Non-steel cargo now accounts for a third of the port’s tonnage. The initiative is already more than half way to its goal.

Investments by Richardson and the grain handling firm of Parrish and Heimbecker have been important parts of that growth. Parrish and Heimbecker spent more than $30 million to inflate two storage bubbles at the foot of Wentworth Street to hold 56,000 tonnes of grain.

The Port of Hamilton handles about 1.5 million tonnes of grain a year.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold , The Hamilton Spectator.

Innovation Factory celebrates its growth spurt

Ethan Do of OverAir has used the Innovation Factory to help him pinpoint markets for his product. He's seen here calling up his company website on a smartphone.Ethan Do takes what looks like a simple business card, waves it behind his Android phone and it opens up his company’s website.

Do’s business card is literally the calling card for his business, OverAir Proximity Technologies. His card uses a microchip sticker to transfer data to compatible devices.

Do is one of the clients of Innovation Factory, the incubation centre for startups and good ideas, located at McMaster Innovation Park. IF officially christened its new expanded space at MIP with a celebration Thursday. Its office has tripled in size because IF is growing in staff and clients, says executive director Ron Neumann.

The new office, which looks out on to the MIP atrium from the ground floor, features a painted Hamilton skyline that doubles as a brainstorming wall in what is being called a “collision centre.” It’s a place for entrepreneurs to grab a coffee, hang out and talk. That kind of informal interaction is invaluable, Neumann said.

“It’s about getting information when you need it and bumping into the right people at just the right time.”

Do says the advice, guidance and support he’s received at IF has been “everything” to his business. Thanks to connections made there, OverAir stickers are being used in a Hamilton packaging company. If a part breaks down, a worker can scan the sticker, which opens a video showing how to fix the problem or sends an email to a supplier ordering a new part.

“This technology can do anything. They are teaching me to focus on some fields,” said Do, a graduate of McMaster’s business informatics program.

There were many entrepreneurs, and those who help them, on hand to celebrate IF’s grand opening.

Tyler Cowie, CEO of creative design company Factor[e], said his IF adviser, Pete Smith, asks the tough questions and looks at all aspects of the business.

“He gets us to change the things you would never change because it’s too hard … He has helped us around not being happy with the status quo.”

IF’s new digs were once occupied by Mohawk College’s corporate training program. Zach Douglas, president of MIP, says it was disappointing to see Mohawk leave the park but that the opening allowed for IF to expand just when it was needed.

Neumann reflected on the beginning of IF, which is part of a network of regional innovation centres across the province. He says he and Keanin Loomis, IF’s chief advocate, started out at a borrowed desk at MIP. A little more than two years later, there are 11 staff and IF has consulted with 391 companies.

Focus areas for 2013 include health and life sciences and a program called Lift designed to help big companies get bigger.

“We want to see dozens of companies hiring hundreds of people. That’s when we’ll be happy,” said Neumann.

The City of Hamilton granted $50,000 to IF last year and $50,000 is budgeted for this year, said Councillor Brian McHattie.

“The innovation focus is the future of this city.”

Mark Chamberlain, chair of IF, says there is now an ecosystem of innovation in Hamilton in which ideas and entrepreneurs can flourish.

“What is happening here is nothing short of phenomenal.”

Joon Kim, a science and business graduate looking for investors, has found a home at IF. He’s working on an alternative way to tackle bacteria that causes cavities. Kim once worked out of a coffee shop but now operates his business, Apollonia, on IF’s Factory Floor space at MIP.

“This place makes the process so much easier. It drastically improves the speed of starting a startup.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod , The Hamilton Spectator.

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