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Hamilton Economic Development

Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – May 2013

In the May 2013 edition of Hamilton Highlights…

  • Manufacturing Investment Activity 
  • Wordcamp
  • Fashionable Downtown
  • GenNext Spring Breakfast

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

Grant helps Ancaster’s Anderson Water Systems grow by 50 jobs

Fifty new full-time jobs will be created with the help of a $300,000 government grant to Ancaster’s Anderson Water Systems, Inc.

The project was announced Thursday by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment for Ontario and a McMaster University graduate.

Anderson, which specializes in industrial water treatment systems, will also commit $1 million of its own money to the project as part of an overall $5-million investment in the new Cormorant Road facility it moved into earlier this year.

“This project will help position Anderson even more strongly as a global leader in process water technologies,” said Hoskins. “You support some of the world’s finest power plants, refineries, chemical production facilities, pulp and paper mills, and a large variety of manufacturing facilities, and with your innovative water treatment system the people working here at Anderson are helping industrial organizations around the world conserve water. This is exactly the type of strategic investment that our government wants to attract.”

Hoskins said water shortage is a growing global concern. He said that by 2030, world water demand is expected to exceed supply by 40 per cent. Right now, water industry is a growth sector worth almost half a trillion dollars worldwide — a number that’s expected to double over the next 20 years. He says the kind of work being done at Anderson will only become more important as communities look for ways to conserve water.

Anderson’s current business includes using an ion exchange system to clean and recycle the water used in the oilfields of Saudi Arabia and Alberta, and in fertilizer production in Morocco.

According to William Tuck, applications engineering manager at Anderson, the 50 positions created (this is in addition to 86 existing positions) will be full time in the fields of engineering, production, drafting, trades and support. They, along with Anderson’s new, larger facilities, will help the company expand business even further.

Article courtesy of Amy Kenny, The Hamilton Spectator.

Toshiba buys Elettra Technology, plans to rev up production

A company born from a multinational corporation’s Hamilton ashes is returning to the multinational fold with a promise of new jobs.

Hamilton-based Elettra Technology Inc., maker of electric motors for everything from tunnel boring machines to nuclear reactors, has sold its assets to Toshiba International Corporation.

In a twist of foreign acquisition stories, the Houston-based buyer has promised not only to keep Elettra’s 40 jobs in Hamilton, but to quickly double employment.

“They’re hiring every single employee we have and planning a significant expansion,” said Joe Aiello, one of Elettra’s co-founders. “The plan is that very quickly they will double the staff.

“One of the things that made us attractive to Toshiba was the people we have, people who can execute these kinds of projects,” he added.

Elettra was created in 1996 by Aiello and partner Carlo Di Pietro. They’d both been executives with Westinghouse when it made industrial motors in Hamilton. Aiello was plant manager and Di Pietro was manager of engineering. When the division was shut down by Westinghouse, they saw a chance to build a new business for themselves.

“We knew there was a niche for projects like this, for a company that could create and design one-of-a-kind machines,” he said. “We just knew that kind of custom-made business could be very successful.”

From the beginning, Aiello said, the plan was to focus on the higher end of the motor market — custom-built engines for devices such as nuclear reactors, the monster machines that bore tunnels through mountains and under rivers, and for military uses where fire and explosion-proof features are important.

Those are motors that require highly skilled labour to produce, while the building of simpler devices was a business they decided was best left to countries where cheap labour can push out motors on an assembly line.

“With stock motors, we couldn’t even buy the materials and be competitive,” he said. “You can make a good living with the kind of projects we do.”

After almost 20 years, however, Aiello said it’s time for a new owner to take the reins. He’s 63, Di Pietro is past 70 and both are ready for some leisure years.

“The time comes when age really starts to take a toll on you,” he said. “A company is like your child, eventually you have to let it go.

“We both still feel great, but we feel we’ve done all we can and it’s time for someone with new energy to take the company to the next level.”

John Rama, Texas-based manager of Toshiba’s motor business unit, said the acquisition will expand his company’s product line, allowing it to compete in new fields.

“We think this will be an excellent extension of our motor business,” he said. “We are definitely planning to expand there.”

One of Toshiba’s first moves will be to relocate Elettra’s manufacturing operations to a newly renovated plant on Jones Road in Stoney Creek.

“As we grow this business we are going to need more room,” he said. “We’re excited about what we can grow this business into.”

Integrating the two companies is expected to take several months. Terms of deal were not disclosed.

“This is great economic news for Hamilton,” said Mayor Bob Bratina in a news release. “It shows our local firms are producing world-class work and … the world is taking notice. I’m also encouraged that this acquisition retains good paying jobs in our community, while laying the foundation for new opportunities for growth.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator.

Empire Steel is empire-building in Hamilton

Empire Steel president Sherif Khalifa, left, and his father Awada have high hopes for the former Siemens plant. Empire Steel has taken up residence in the idled Siemens turbine plant in Hamilton and plans to build its own empire there.

The steel service company may not be a household name around here but its roots date back three generations to Egypt and it has about 20 years of history as a customer at ArcelorMittal Dofasco.

Empire Steel sells flat-rolled steel coils to automotive, construction and appliance sectors in Africa and Europe. It has moved its inventory into about 150,000 square feet of the Milton Avenue plant that has been empty since Siemens Canada closed its gas turbine factory in July 2011 and moved the operation to North Carolina.

Company president Sherif Khalifa says he has lured at least three other companies to the Hamilton site, all from outside the city and including one coming from the U.S. Midwest. The goal is to manufacture auto parts and other components on site, rather than simply ship away the raw steel.

“We’ve struck a deal with a fabricator and manufacturer and a couple of others but I can’t talk to many details,” said Khalifa. He says that the sagging fortunes of the steel industry make it necessary to bring several players under one roof.

“I don’t think a lot of people are courageous enough to take over a 620,000-square-foot building in this economy unless they are convinced good things will happen.”

Construction crews are creating doors and entrances and installing new lighting and heating systems, but much of Empire’s inventory is already on site. There are also large steel presses covered with plastic tarps, awaiting installation.

Khalifa, 40, says the sprawling plant, portions of which date back more than a century, was in perfect condition when he took possession Jan. 1. He and Siemens worked for 18 months on a deal. Now, he spends more time there than at his Markham home. He jokes the building is like his fourth child.

“I get mesmerized here. This building, for its age, it’s impeccable. It’s very solid. Some of the beams in here are strong enough to hold a bridge.”

He says this as a 250-tonne overhead crane plucks a 35-tonne coil of steel off the floor and into the air as if it were a spool of thread. The cranes here are the biggest in Canada.

Khalifa’s deal with Siemens also includes a former office building across the street at 30 Milton. He says it’s perfect for government use.

Khalifa’s father, Awad, was getting set to retire but has personally invested in the new venture and will stay active in the company. He says his dad’s wisdom and his youth are fuelling Empire’s new direction.

And the former Siemens plant was the ideal place to launch it, thanks to the cranes, 65-foot ceilings and a rail line that comes into the building. Khalifa says a study has been completed into building a rail link between the building and the Hamilton port.

“This is the building of all buildings … There are lots of opportunities in this building.”

He expects to see the place fully operational and employing at least 150 people sometime this year.

“Everything that comes up fast, falls fast. We are very careful. We have to do it right.”

Neil Everson, the city’s manager of economic development, said he was aware Empire Steel was interested in the Siemens site, the Barton Street and Sanford Avenue area, and the city is always happy to see a new use for an idled industrial plant.

Khalifa acknowledges that Siemens took a lot of heat in Hamilton for closing its operation. But he says the company, which bases its Canadian headquarters in Burlington, cares about Hamilton and carefully studied his business plan.

“They were very adamant about having the right person for Hamilton. They are a worthy company and this is a state of the art building.”

Siemens bought the plant from Westinghouse in 1997 as part of a $1.53-billion deal. That ended Westinghouse’s 111-year history in Hamilton.

Siemens once employed 550 at the Milton Avenue plant but shifted its operation to Charlotte, N.C., saying the gas turbine market was shrinking in Ontario. The city and state also offered $157 million in incentives to sweeten the deal.

Hamilton and Queen’s Park officials, along with labour groups, vigorously fought the move.

Then there were high hopes a wind turbine plant would come to the Hamilton property but Siemens located the plant in Tillsonburg instead.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.

Mac’s high-tech cradle for cars of the future

Ali Emadi, director of MacAUTO, shows off a hybrid car built by students at one of the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre garages.The McMaster Automotive Resource Centre is entirely empty and workers are still bustling about finishing the cavernous space a day before the official ribbon-cutting Thursday at the Hamilton Economic Summit.

It will be months before the equipment is moved in and research work is under way to create the hybrid and electric cars of the future in the Careport Centre on Longwood Road South. Yet the man in charge of the new 80,000-square-foot, $26-million facility at the McMaster Innovation Park is already expecting to quickly run out of room.

“Once it’s fully operational, this is going to be the most sophisticated facility in academia in North America,” said Ali Emadi, director of MacAUTO, the largest concentration of automotive technology researchers in North America.

Fuel-economy standards are getting tougher and Emadi believes in the next decade all cars in North America will be electrified in some way.

That means a lot of companies are interested in research partnerships to develop more advanced, reliable and efficient hybrids and electric vehicles. Emadi says MacAUTO has already had to park projects because of a lack of space at the McMaster campus. He’s anxious to be up and running at MARC but predicts further expansion will be necessary.

“There is so much interest from companies to work with us. We will hit the limit here very soon,” Emadi said.

About 200 university engineers, chemists, mathematicians and social scientists are working on next-generation batteries, charging stations, powertrains and engines, better on-board electrical storage, more lightweight materials, better software to manage a car’s systems and public policy for the auto sector.

McMaster aims to make Hamilton the centre of advanced automotive research in Canada.

“We’re giving our world-class researchers a world-class building with globally unique equipment. What else would you want?” said a beaming Emadi, who was lured by the university from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 2011.

MARC is located in the former Camco appliance warehouse on the west side of Longwood Road at Aberdeen. The property is now part of the McMaster Innovation Park.

A portion of the box-like steel structure has undergone a large renovation to add a second floor for software labs and control rooms. The ground floor has been wrapped in glass to add light.

The centre includes commercial garage space with multiple bays to receive vehicles for experiments and testing. The biggest can accommodate a transit bus.

There will be a solar canopy in the parking lot to do research on tying into the power grid and test rooms for batteries and powertrains.

Industry partners include auto-parts companies along with manufacturers Ford, Chrysler and GM. ArcelorMittal Dofasco is working with Mac researchers on lightweight automotive steel. All that work will lead to high-tech, high-paying jobs and keep more graduates working in the city, says Emadi.

“I think we’re the only university in North America that can design and build an electric car from the ground up,” he says, proudly showcasing a hybrid race car built by Mac students that goes from zero to 95 kilometres an hour in three seconds. It won first place for design in a recent GM competition.

“We do practical, meaningful and applied work,” said Emadi. “We need to be relevant and deliver. I remind myself every day that my salary comes from the taxpayer.”

McMaster president Patrick Deane says MARC’s opening is gratifying.

“It will allow our researchers to undertake exciting new projects and share new knowledge with our students. In creating modern manufacturing jobs, the centre will benefit the broader community and will enable the development of cleaner, more efficient cars for drivers everywhere.”

MARC is a cornerstone of MIP, together with the federal CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory and the Atrium. MIP is currently in early planning for a fourth building, called the Emerging Technology Centre.

The automotive industry is big business in Ontario. There were more vehicles, 2.1 million, produced in Ontario in 2011 than any other state or province in North America. The province is home to five top automakers and more than 300 parts manufacturers, which have invested $10 billion in Ontario in the last six years. The sector provides more than 88,000 jobs.

But Steve Rodgers, president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, says Canada is losing ground to other jurisdictions and has to focus its research on future fuel-efficiency standards.

“MARC is the ideal opportunity to do critical research in our ability to meet future industrial requirements.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.

Cisco gives McMaster $2.1m to create research “cloud”

Photo of Dr. John Kelton, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster UniversityMcMaster University and the giant IT company Cisco Canada are joining forces in a $2.1 million project to build a university-wide research “cloud” to enhance the sharing of medical information.

The project was announced today at McMaster University Innovation Park

Cisco is providing a $2.1 million to the university that includes $1.6 million over eight years to establish a Professorship in Integrated Health Biosystems, as well as $500,000 over five years to establish a Research Chair in Bioinformatics.

“This research cloud infrastructure will allow us to quickly grow, change and adapt the computing environment to meet the demands of our research and changing needs of our researchers,” said Mo Elbestawi, McMaster’s vice-president of research and international affairs.

Article courtesy of Mark McNeil, The Hamilton Spectator.

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