Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – February 2015
In the February 2015 edition of Hamilton Highlights…
- City of Hamilton’s Foreign Investment Strategy Released
- Innovation Factory’s Synapse Life Science Competition in Full Swing
- Twitter Vice-President to Speak in Hamilton
- Things Looking up in Downtown Hamilton
Hamilton’s Canmet gets new research steel-rolling mill
Materials research at the CanmetMaterial lab at the McMaster Innovation Park got a major boost Thursday with the unveiling of a new state-of-the-art rolling mill.
Natural Resources Canada’s new equipment, according to a news release, includes “features not available in any research laboratory in the world. The new mill, designed and built as a research mill and tailored to the Canmet facility, will be used to develop the latest generation of ultra-high-strength and ductility steels for automobile bodies and also support the improvement of processing capabilities for new high-strength linepipe grades.”
The equipment “will provide significant benefits to both the pipeline and car manufacturing industries and will draw innovation projects into Canada to support the future role of Canadian steel and light metals producers.”
Article courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator.
1,000 jobs planned for ArcelorMittal over three years
For Tony Valeri, the company’s vice-president of public affairs, that alone is proof there’s a future for the steel industry in Hamilton.
That’s in addition to more than $250 million invested over the past five years in new technology and equipment.
Valeri was one of three industry players who told the Canadian Club of Hamilton on Wednesday that despite its troubles, the business that made Hamilton famous will thrive in the future.
“I think there’s a very bright future for ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Hamilton,” he said. “Steel continues to evolve and because of that it will continue to be part of Hamilton.”
Many have worried about the future of the industry that once employed more than 30,000 workers in the city.
The worry has been fed by a steady erosion of jobs that now sees employment in Hamilton at barely 6,000 (ArcelorMittal Dofasco now has about 5,400 workers and U.S. Steel Canada about 2,300, including 600 in Hamilton). In addition, the former Stelco is under creditor protection for the second time in 10 years.
That’s on top of wild swings in currency exchange rates, trouble finding skilled workers and competition from countries such as China where workers are paid $35 a day, including food and housing. That’s about what a Canadian steelworker earns in an hour.
Adding to concern for the future is the lingering fear the former Stelco plant here will be closed as part of the U.S. Steel Canada’s financial restructuring now winding its way through the courts.
While at least one of the two giants of the Canadian industry is adamant it has a future in Hamilton, the businesspeople who shared Wednesday’s platform with Valeri say there’s more to the business than simply making the metal itself.
Walter Krancevic, sales and marketing vice-president at CareGo, said his company started as a firm that simply moved steel from trains to trucks for shipment and occasionally stored coils for brief periods. Today, its success springs from marketing a technology around the world that allows companies to do that work with unheard of efficiency — its own warehouse in Hamilton operates with a single employee to watch over the computers that do all the work.
Called Telia, the technology all but eliminates human workers from the business of storing and locating steel coils while offering huge operating savings.
“We’ve found a way to put more steel in less space,” he said. “Our distribution business is alive and well and working, but we think our future is in Telia.”
Also alive and thriving, is the business of bashing steel into the shapes required by users such as auto assemblers and parts makers and construction companies.
Walter Koppelaar, president of Walters Group, sells structural steel across North America and sees a good future despite challenges in the business.
“The skill set we’ve developed in the steel industry is what made Hamilton famous,” he said. “We see a bright future because of that, we have deep roots in Hamilton and we’re not leaving.”
All three panellists agreed one of the largest challenges facing the industry today comes from China — a giant with half of the world’s steel production capacity and a government willing to subsidize the industry as a tool of economic policy.
“A steel mill in China is an instrument of the government and isn’t required to make a profit,” Krancevic said, while Valeri added those inefficient plants are kept operating by subsidies from the state.
“The Asian countries look at steel as the basis of their industrial economies,” he said. “We welcome the competition, but it’s difficult to compete with the treasury of a state.”
In that environment, he said, the path to success is for the companies to focus on the things they can control — things like their own efficiency, relationships with their customers and the skill of their workers.
“Our opportunities are in continuous improvement, in uncovering and extracting value from what we do,” he said.
Koppelaar added skills training has become a critical piece of the survival equation.
“The people we’re looking for in the future are going to be very highly skilled, a college education will be needed for most,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to differentiate ourselves from our Asian counterparts.”
The panellists also offered a shopping list of government aid they say will help the industry: export assistance, dropping the idea of a carbon tax, using the North American Free Trade Agreement to oppose the “Buy American” program in the United States, stabilizing exchange rates and the price of oil and greater support on the development side of research and development — that’s the part that turns ideas into actual products and cash flow.
Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator.
‘We print imagination’ at Mohawk’s 3D lab
That’s how he tries to simply explain why additive manufacturing, often called 3D printing, is so important.
Gerritson is the director of Mohawk College’s new Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre, which houses about $2 million worth of sophisticated printers that create metal and plastic objects.
Where traditional manufacturing techniques, such as machining, casting and milling remove material to form a desired part, additive manufacturing builds an object up in microscopic layers of powdered plastic or metal.
“We will see all new parts and new designs for existing parts,” said Gerritson. “This will be a driver of innovation … There are many opportunities that have yet to be explored.”
The technology is revolutionizing everything from aerospace components to toys and medical implants, to bicycle parts.
Now, the only limit on what can be produced is human imagination, says first-year student Ross Mogridge, who is chief student technician at the lab.
“We print imagination. I can physically make anything that I can imagine.”
Within an oxygen-free chamber roughly the size of an oven, a laser reading a digital image deposits hair-thin layers of powdered metal or plastic the way a paintbrush layers paint. Heat fuses the newly deposited powder with the existing layers.
This offers two advantages: there is little waste and components can be built as whole units rather than individual parts needing assembly. This saves labour but also eliminates failure points where screws, bolts or welds hold parts together.
The biggest benefit is that the additive allows shapes to be formed, like curved holes, which could never be formed any other way.
The machine can print hundreds of the same part or dozens of different ones at the same time.
The drawbacks are that current 3D printers are still relatively slow compared to other methods, a limited number of materials are available and the technique isn’t suitable for producing parts in large volumes.
The lab has plenty of prototypes that show what their machines can do: a metal chess piece with a tiny, curved staircase inside; models of turbine blades that have a curved channel etched out; a bike sprocket printed as one unit; even a plastic ukulele.
Most impressive of all is a rounded hip implant with porous metal that allows a bone to grow and fuse into it.
“That kind of porosity in the metal would be impossible to make any other way,” said engineering dean Tony Thoma.
Visibly proud of this lab, he says many colleges and universities have 3D printing labs that aren’t as advanced as this one. There are no labs in Ontario with metal printers and only three across the country.
“We’re here to expose this technology to industry,” said Thoma.
Companies can work with the lab to test new products or to produce manufactured-quality products.
The Mohawk lab, operational for a few months now, has 43 core clients. These include aviation giants and startups.
The lab is a great complement to materials research at McMaster University and the federal CANMET lab, says Thoma. That makes Hamilton poised to be a centre of excellence.
Burloak Technologies, which moved to Dundas last year from Burlington, cited Mohawk’s lab among the primary reasons for its relocation. The company made a multimillion-dollar investment in metal printers.
The lab, opened officially in January, received a total of $720,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund, along with industry partners.
For Mogridge, 28, his biggest challenge will be deciding which job offer to accept when he graduates. He says companies are struggling to find the skilled technicians who can run the machines because they are so new.
“It’s my passion. I love the industry. I see the future there. What we do in the lab is what most people would call sci-fi.”
Mohawk’s lab is already being credited with keeping one new medical business from moving out of Ontario.
Stemmed Implant Technology has developed a less invasive but stronger way to affix dental implants to bones. The technology is the invention of a Niagara Falls dentist. It’s screwless and more intricate than existing implants, says Chris Ostrovski, the company’s CEO.
Traditional machining can’t reproduce the design. Additive manufacturing is the only answer.
The implants will reduce a patient’s time in the dentist’s chair and cut the number of necessary visits, says Ostrovski.
But the company’s founders felt they would have to head down to Kentucky to get help with research and developing prototypes. That was before they heard about Mohawk’s new lab.
“The machines that Mohawk has are probably the most advanced that are available.”
It’s there that they produced their first lot of dental implants, which can now be used in clinical studies at McMaster.
“We just about fell over when we saw the first prototypes,” said Ostrovski.
“The first sample came out exactly as we designed and envisioned. Mohawk has the expertise, the machinery and the students that we can help to train and then eventually employ them … This is a dream for a little company like ours.”
Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator
Young ‘ex-pats’ worth luring back home, conference attendees told
Municipal leaders should stop trying to bait or bribe youth who want to leave town, says a University of Waterloo researcher.
Let them go because if you can lure them back, they will be more successful, Michelle Madden urged attendees at the Economic Developers Council of Ontario annual conference Thursday.
“The best approach is to graciously let them leave and then work on attracting them back,” said Madden, outreach manager in the university’s economic development program.
She said research shows those who return to their hometown after being educated or getting work experience elsewhere own a higher percentage of businesses and employ more people than those who stayed. Those who work for others achieved higher levels of success, too.
“So embrace youth out-migration,” said Madden. “If you bring ex-pats home, it will be good for your community.”
She highlighted efforts by Chatham-Kent and Toronto to bring young ex-pats home that included directly linking them with employers, and videos highlighting the stories of those who returned.
Andre Robichaud says he vowed never to return to his hometown of Kapuskasing when he left at 18. Now he’s an economic development officer there, working to bring young people back to the northern Ontario town.
Hits to the forestry- and mining-based economy of the town of 8,000 meant youth fled at the highest rate ever through the 1990s and into the 2000s. The town developed a strategy in 2006 that focused on Kapuskasing’s quality of life and cost of living.
This is a town where the average commute is 8.5 minutes and a “very nice house” can be bought for $97,000, says Robichaud.
Town staff connected with local employers, built a database of youth, issued newsletter highlighting local opportunities and even brought Kapuskasing natives back for weekends of wining and dining.
Michael Marini, director of marketing for Hamilton’s economic development department, says this city is already well positioned as a place of opportunity for young people. That is now translating into new businesses and real estate investment.
“We’re now in a very exciting phase of activity,” he said.
The theme of youth carried into the last keynote address of the conference, held at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Marketing expert and youth culture researcher Max Valiquette said the most powerful youth (18- to 34-year-old) cohort ever is defined by the constant connectivity of social networking, the postponement of adult milestones, such as post-secondary graduation, marriage and children, and a cultural fixation on the style and behaviour of youth.
He said workplaces have to engage this group through optimism and encouraging their ideas and entrepreneurial spirits. But setting clear workplace expectations is crucial.
“This group may come across as fundamentally disrespectful. They aren’t. They’ve just had a huge voice throughout their life.”
Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.
City’s brownfield investment model all the talk at conference
Fourteen years later, there are 52 municipalities in Ontario with brownfield grant and loan initiatives.
The story of the ERASE program, which has seen the city offer $17 million in tax breaks and grants since 2001 to rehabilitate 72 hectares, was shared at the annual conference of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario Thursday at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Thirty redevelopment grants have led to $320 million in construction and 500 jobs. Among those projects was Bunge’s expansion into an unused Sunoco tank farm, which attracted a $1.1-million ERASE grant.
The edible oil maker added 40 jobs to its existing operation of 100 in Hamilton and the city added $250,000 to its property tax base.
“These are long-term, real-world results but they require a commitment and long-term funding,” said Luciano Piccioni, Hamilton’s first brownfield co-ordinator and now a private consultant, who was among the presenters.
He says most cities didn’t want to admit they even had brownfield properties when Hamilton launched its program.
Ontario law prohibits some types of incentives that are common in the United States, but Piccioni says that just means cities and towns here have to be more creative and targeted.
A common approach is to create community improvement plans (CIP) that set out boundaries for investment incentives to rehabilitate unused buildings, clean up contaminated land or improve energy efficiency.
Those incentives can include no-interest loans, grants or tax breaks or reductions on development charges or parking requirements.
More than 100 municipalities in Ontario have set out CIPs for their downtowns, said Piccioni, who operates a consultancy in Stoney Creek that helps municipalities create and implement incentive programs. In addition, provincial and federal economic development programs are in place to convince employers to locate, stay and grow, the conference heard.
“Sometimes it has nothing to do with money but with relationships,” said Lynne Groulx, senior business adviser with Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.
“Sometimes businesses are looking for resources or support around the table.”
Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.