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Hamilton Economic Development

New $12-million air cargo terminal opens in Hamilton

CARGO CENTRE photoHamilton airport’s new cargo terminal is wheels up.

The $12-million facility was officially opened Thursday, even though its main tenant has been operating from it for a month.

Airport president Frank Scremin said the new terminals, with a cooler, secured customs area and 16 truck bays, will open Mount Hope airport to tons of cargo it hasn’t been able to handle before.

“This will open access to the overnight express business in Hamilton to a lot of cargo operators,” Scremin said. “This facility is going to be accessible for them.”

Scremin explained that while Hamilton is already the busiest cargo airport in Canada, its growth has been held back by the lack of something like the new Air Cargo Logistics Centre.

He explained that with few warehouses in Hamilton, shippers lacked space to store their freight while they consolidated cargos or got customs clearances. Time-sensitive freight, like flowers, pharmaceuticals and food, couldn’t go through Hamilton at all without a cooler.

Now, with 5,000 square feet of climate-controlled space, fruit from South America, flowers from Europe, seafood from the Martimes and medication from everywhere can pass through Hamilton.

“We are going to be a lot more aggressive about going after the perishables business now,” Scremin said.

Half of the new terminal has been taken over by CargoJet, the Mississauga-based company that has become Canada’s largest air freight hauler.

Gord Johnston, the company’s vice-president for sales, said the new terminal will make John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport a destination for many new airlines, bringing in freight his aircraft can then move around the country.

“I know other airlines are going to be attracted here now,” he said.

Cost of the facility was split between the federal and provincial governments and TradePort International Corp., the company that operates the airport under a long-term lease with Hamilton.

With a federal election looming, government MPs were quick to praise the Harper Conservatives for backing an important infrastructure project.

“Canada’s prosperity depends on a network of strong public infrastructure,” said Public Works Minister Diane Finley. “We remain focused on creating the right environment to encourage economic growth.”

Finley said the new facility will result in 400 jobs, both in its own operations and among companies using it.

Ontario Education Minister and Guelph MPP Liz Sandals said her government supported the project because it will boost the area’s economy.

“We’re supporting this because we want to grow our economy and create jobs right here in Hamilton,” she said. “We’re supporting this because we know how important infrastructure projects like this are.

Even Opposition MPs supported the project. Wayne Marston, the NDP member for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek praised it as a source of jobs for the future.

Ron Foxcroft, chair of TradePort’s board, said the city needs more such projects that cut across party lines for the good of the city.

“More than anything this airport is an example of partnerships working,” he said. “It shows we can break down the party lines for the benefit of the city.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

Pan Am Games were a fantastic showcase for Hamilton

FIREWORKSThe end of Pan Am in Hamilton, at least, met the pre-Games hype.

A capacity crowd roared during a hard-fought 1-0 gold medal soccer win at the city’s $145-million stadium. The highway drive to Hamilton was doable, if not enjoyable. Hamilton native and basketball gold medallist Kia Nurse was flag-bearer for a Canadian Pan Am team that pulled in a record 217 medals.

And thousands of people were expected to flood the waterfront at Pier 4 Park for a fireworks display synchronized to music from a live orchestra Sunday evening.

“I thought, overall, it was just a fantastic showcase for Hamilton,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

It wasn’t always so Pan-tastic.

Over two weeks, the QEW occasionally morphed into a commuter trap. Some games drew only a few thousand fans — not unexpected, but striking in a 22,500-seat stadium.

Pan Am shuttles for soccer spectators were so efficient, many out-of-towners saw little of Hamilton other than the stadium and GO Station. Stadium rules didn’t allow fans out between games, hurting businesses at city-sponsored satellite events.

Anecdotally, it appears attendance at everything from stadium soccer to the downtown beer tent improved gradually between July 10 and 26 — but we don’t really know.

Other than the medal count, hard Pan Am numbers are hard to come by, even for the stadium and GO Train. For now, it’s about impressions:

 

The stadium

 

Take it from a guy who spends a lot of time in soccer venues: Hamilton’s stadium is “awesome,” said Nicolás Romay, who covered Pan Am soccer for Mexico’s Claro Sports. “All the facilities we needed, they are here. The people, I thought, first-rate.”

Romay said he enjoyed being able to see so much of Hamilton — the escarpment, the waterfront — from his perch atop the stadium. That was nice, since he and most international media types didn’t stay here — they were bused in daily from Toronto.

Stadium food remains a work in progress. Some spectators waited 30 minutes for grub during the first soccer weekend despite game attendance of less than 5,000. Crowds grew over time, but wait times were up and down. To be fair, the not-quite-complete stadium still doesn’t have working beer taps. Over to you, city and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

 

The traffic

 

Hamilton set up 68 cameras on major streets leading to the stadium and prepared to make remote signal adjustments on the fly but for the most part, changes weren’t needed. The province’s much-maligned Pan Am HOV plan, which guaranteed athlete and official movement in three-rider minimum carpool lanes, got mixed reviews from commuters.

But when collisions bunched up on the QEW Saturday, soccer fans lost — even when their team won. Wayne Thomas spent most of the bronze medal men’s final on the highway. He made it to Hamilton’s stadium late with the score knotted at 1-1 but was then denied entry due to what appeared to be a mixup.

Venue manager Kelly Smith said the gates remained open into extra time, but Thomas said he was twice prevented from entering, forcing him to peer through the gate to see his team, Brazil, pull ahead 2-1 near the end of regular time.

He eventually got the green light, just before the game ended.

“You know, this is the first time I’ve ever specifically come to Hamilton,” he said with a laugh. “I should probably at least go in and see the stadium.”

 

The festivals

 

Specific Pan Am venue rules that forbade re-entry were tough to swallow at the stadium, where most tickets were for two matches spread over several hours. The rules hurt food trucks and vendors at Gore Park and Ottawa Street events expecting soccer fan spillover.

“Shuttle shot visitors thru the city to be locked in the stadium and shuttled out at the end. So much for showcasing #HamOnt,” Tweeted food truck operator Gorilla Cheese.

Flyer handouts at both the stadium and GO Station helped, suggested Tim Potocic, lead organizer on the waterfront Pan Am weekend finale, peering at numerous soccer jerseys in the crowd Sunday.

“Personally, I think locally we did everything we could, everything that was under our control, to encourage people to come out and enjoy really first-rate cultural and entertainment events.”

North-ender Mike Kleinhuis, who kept the soccer fun rolling Sunday by kicking the ball around with his son at Pier 4 Park, gave local organizers high marks for “focusing on local talent,” pointing to Terra Lightfoot and Alfie Smith at the waterfront as examples. “These are people we love, people we’re proud of, so I thought it was great for the city.”

 

The business case

 

Perhaps stadium soccer in a residential neighbourhood with shuttles ready to whisk fans away postgame was never going to be a bonanza for local bars and restaurants.

A trickle of fans tried exploring Barton and King streets after medal games on the weekend, however.

“We were not going to leave until we found a place to have a drink,” said Fenton Alphonse, who with a friend ended up at the Prince Edward Tavern on Barton, more notable for diehard CFL than footie fans.

“It did take us a while,” admitted the Mississauga resident and first-time Hamilton visitor. “It was this or Tim Hortons, and, you know, they only serve coffee.”

Impromptu flag and T-shirt sales were brisk and while spontaneous bacon-on-a-stick sales were kiboshed quickly, everyone and his uncle had a parking space for sale.

Eisenberger said the biggest business coup was the city’s courting of international executives. Those visitors toured the core, the waterfront and available real estate.

A bilateral trade forum with Niagara served up an announcement of a new “centre of excellence for sports analytics,” and the mayor said he hopes more relationships will develop over time.

“We’re one of very few communities that actually made such an economic development effort, and it is paying off,” he said.

Article courtesy of Matthew Van Dongen, The Hamilton Spectator.

Pan Am Games meant ‘a special summer’ for Hamilton

The Pan Am Games were a smooth ride for Hamilton, and one that left us with a stadium and a lot of good memories, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says.

But others wish there had been better logistics for moving fans and more economic spinoff for local businesses.

Eisenberger said before the final soccer game at CIBC Stadium on Sunday that the games have been a good thing for Hamilton.

They resulted in the city getting a new stadium for one-third of the cost. And despite a few minor glitches, “they’ve gone smoothly,” he said.

“Those that involved themselves got to enjoy two weeks of fun, two weeks of sports entertainment and a wealth of talent and enthusiasm in our community,” he said.

“We’re a closer knit community now, and we’re on a very positive curve.”

Toronto 2015 organizers sold about 200,000 tickets for the 18 soccer events at what is normally called Tim Hortons Field. That’s about two thirds of the available tickets.

While some games, such as when the Canadian men’s team played Brazil on opening weekend, drew a crowd near the 19,000-seat capacity. Other games drew fewer than 4,000 people.

Business owners surveyed around the stadium said they experienced little economic benefits. Some shops on Ottawa Street, where the BIA hosted food trucks, said they actually saw less business, presumably because regular customers thought the street would be to jammed to pass.

Entrepreneurs and residents had various theories on why local business didn’t see much of a spinoff. Pan Am attendees who arrived via the West Harbour GO station, for example, took shuttle buses directly to the stadium, where they disembarked and stayed. Drivers were directed to Mohawk College and McMaster University, where buses took them to the front door of the stadium. And those with tickets to double headers weren’t allowed to leave between games.

“All I see is buses going in and buses going out,” said Nirmit Patel, who owns Welcome Mart near the stadium.

Vrancor Hospitality Corp., owners of the Sheraton, Homewood Suites and Staybridge Suites, reported a 9.5-per cent increase in room rentals, primarily from games officials and media.

The city had ongoing events, such as Celebration Square in Gore Park, and an international viewing house at Ferguson Station in the International Village. They appeared fairly well attended on weekends, but drew scant crowds during the week.

Coun. Jason Farr, who represents Ward 2 downtown, concurs that attendance was “up and down” at the local events. But he thinks reaction was generally positive.

“From my own personal observation, certainly Gore Park was more alive because of the Pan Am Promenade,” he said. He also encountered people on James Street North who were from out of town and looking for places to go.

‘Surpassed hopes’

Like Eisenberger, Farr said the big success is the new stadium and the new attention it brought the Pan Am precinct.

“It lived up to and even surpassed hopes,” he said. “I really do think it was a very special summer for us.”

Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and the NDP critic for the Pan Am Games, said he was pleased with the athleticism he saw at the games. As for logistics, he saw room for improvement.

Security at the stadium was fairly slow, he said, so people with tickets were still in lines at the entrance when the game had already started. He also wished the West Harbour GO station, while functional, was more of a finished product.

Did the GO station ever get completed? I’m not sure,” he said.

On Monday, Metrolinx closed the east platform of the station again for construction.

Brought business opportunities

Miller also has questions about the economic spinoff of the games, including people’s inability to leave the stadium after they’d entered. And the HOV lanes on GTHA highways, which were reserved for vehicles with three or more occupants, were “underused and too restrictive.”

“I’m happy with the results,” he said of the games “I’m not quite overly thrilled with the traffic and economic spinoff. Overall, I’d say it was a 6.5 out of 10.”

Eisenberger said he was also pleased with the Pan Am Investment Playbook Bilateral Trade Forum downtown. Hamilton will host a trade delegation from Colombia this fall as a result of the games, he said.

“The longer legacy is the relationships built with businesses and business opportunities,” he said.

The final Pan Am Games event in Hamilton was the cultural showcase at the waterfront on Sunday night, which featured fireworks by Circus Orange with the National Academy Orchestra.

Article courtesy of Samantha Craggs, CBC News

Major trade mission coming to Hamilton in October

Hamilton is looking for more than memories and medals out of the Pan Am Games.

Along with Niagara Region, the city hopes to score big with a trade delegation from Colombia coming to Hamilton in late October — a deal arranged during the Games.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, 70 companies from the South American country will come here in October to buy and sell products and services, mostly in the information and communication technology field.

Alvaro Concha, Colombia’s trade commissioner to Canada, told a gathering at Mohawk College the companies are coming here to sell software and to entice Canadian firms to invest in a country with a rapidly growing economy.

“It’s about connecting Canadian companies with Colombian companies in the ICT sectors. What we’re trying to offer as a country is for Canadian companies to source in Colombia or to find opportunities to invest in our country,” he said.

“ICT is a very easy industry to connect because everything is just a click away,” he added. “We see Colombia as a key player in that sector.”

Concha said Colombia offers many points to attract Canadians with money to invest — the country’s middle class is growing rapidly, its gross domestic product hit $600 billion last year and its foreign trade swelled to $60 billion — $1.8 billion of that was with Canada.

ICT segment sales were more than $2.2 billion — the third highest in Latin America, he said.

The companies coming to Hamilton and Toronto in October will have software to sell in the gaming and mobile applications fields, among others. They’ll also be looking for partners to invest in their country.

One of the challenges to getting Canadian companies interested in Colombia, Concha said, is a general lack of awareness.

“Part of this event is to create that awareness and show what Colombia is all about in IT,” he said. “The October event has to be a high-level one so we can impact and spread the word in a very strong way, to put Colombia on the radar.”

Once known as one of the most violent countries on Earth, ruled by warring drug cartels, Concha said his nation now offers a safe haven for investors.

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report for 2015 ranked Colombia “No. 1 for being the friendliest country to do business and the No. 1 in Latin America for being the best to protect investors,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal has been similarly complimentary.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he’s hoping Colombian companies coming in October will also be looking to invest and buy products and services.

“What we have is a stable economy. If they want to expand their business, they are looking for a stable economy to invest in,” he said. “Some people are still worried about the politics and the dynamics down there. Even though it’s stable at the moment, it tends to be volatile. They want a safe haven to invest and grow their business, and Hamilton and Canada are seen as that safe haven.”

Wednesday’s announcement is part of the Economic Development Department’s Americas Investment Playbook, a strategy developed with Niagara Region to use the Pan Am Games as a chance to forge links with businesses from those nations.

“The economy is global today and we have to be sure we reach to those other global markets to explore opportunities,” Eisenberger said. “Our economic development folks here have developed a good strategy to capitalize not only on the sports opportunity of Pan Am but also the business opportunity.”

The strategy will continue Wednesday with a bilateral trade forum featuring presentations by the consuls-general of Chile, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, the United States and Colombia.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

City on track to break $1B in building permits again

CONSTRUCTIONAt the halfway mark of the year, the city is on track to break the $1-billion mark in building permit value for the fifth time in six years.

The city has recorded $541 million in construction value via 3,423 building permits through the end of last month.

Hamilton topped the billion-dollar mark in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The construction value so far this year and the number of permits issued were only eclipsed by results of the first six months of 2012.

“Right now, we are tracking strong,” said Neil Everson, director of the city’s economic development division.

“It was a cold winter and a slow start to the year, so our numbers were down. But the interest is strong now.”

He says there are important projects coming in the near future, too.

Everson says breaking through the billion-dollar mark continues to be an important milestone.

“The first time we hit it, it was such a big deal. It was on the front page then … Now we have the potential to make it five of six years, so we strive for it. We don’t know how long it will last.”

Almost three-quarters of June’s $94.4-million construction value was in the residential sector. The city has made it a priority to boost its non-residential tax assessment.

Comparing three-year averages, the non-residential construction value this year is down 33 per cent, while residential is up 24 per cent. The number of permits is up in all sectors.

Everson says there is growing interest in the manufacturing sector this year, at least partly buoyed by a Canadian dollar that makes exports more competitive.

“I think building permits are a good barometer of what’s happening in the economy. We’re seeing growth in every sector except institutional but we can’t complain about that too much because there has been so much activity there for the last few years.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

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