Hamilton Economic Development

McMaster Innovation Park boosts its thinking power

McMaster Innovation Park is acquiring some new, innovative minds with the arrival of IdeaciaONE — a consulting firm for entrepreneurial businesses.

The Markham-based company is comprised of a suite of three sets of services: SR&ED (scientific research and experimental development) claim preparation; marketing; and management and acquisition of the sale or purchase of a business and investor relations (M&A).

“We are not only opening a new office to better serve the Greater Hamilton area, but more importantly we are excited to become strategic partners with MIP and the Hamilton Economic Development department,” said Jennifer Powers, co-founder and principal, in a statement.

The company has five offices across the country in addition to the one in Hamilton. It opens in July and will have one employee based here.

Mark Stewart, marketing and leasing manager for McMaster Innovation Park, said IdeaciaONE’s presence will enable staff to offer more services to tenants who are often high-tech startups with a need for services to access capital injections, planning out a marketing strategy and research and development funding applications.

He said the company’s specialty in SR&ED will be particularly helpful.

“It’s a great addition for us — the SR&ED hole has been bugging me for a while,” he said. “Any company: small, big, new, old, whether they need some information on tax credits, getting funding for a startup product or a new product, they’ll be able to help.”

Stewart said the services IdeaciaONE offers is a nice complement to the work at Innovation Factory and Angel One investors.

“It offers us a bit more bench strength for helping companies.”

Article courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator

Mabel finds her way to Walmart

The partners behind Mabel's Labels - from left, Cythia Esp, Tricia Mumby, Julie Cole and Julie Ellis,  - have inked a deal with Walmart Canada.The little label company that could has cracked the wall of Walmart.

Mabel’s Labels, a born-and-bred Hamilton company that has taken online and mommy marketing by storm, is now found in 330 of the company’s Canadian stores in a one-year exclusive contract with the Mississauga-based chain.

The business began when two sisters and their two friends were tired of their kids coming home from day care, school or camp minus their belongings. They came up with durable personalized labels, self-adhesive or iron-ons, that can be affixed to clothes, lunch boxes, backpacks, water bottles and anything else kids tote around and often leave behind.

Forty-five customized labels sell for $21.

In 10 years, Mabel’s has sold more than 50 million labels in 97 countries through its website. The company has mastered social media, hired public relations companies to generate attention in mom-oriented media, won plenty of business awards and built enormous loyalty out of customers, including some celebrity followers.

They’ve grown out of the basement of one of their homes and into a 14,000-square-foot facility on Chatham Street.

Where they used to stay up late into the night filling orders after their work days were done, the partners now employ 40 people.

But this is their first foray into retailing and president and partner Julie Cole says it was terrifying.

“We started the negotiations six months ago and then we went into pitch. It was scary,” says Cole, a mom of six who gave up a law career to focus on the business.

“Here’s little Mabel and big, old Walmart. But they responded really warmly to us. They recognized the value of the product and knew their customers would love it.”

Mabel’s had hired a retail consultant who has plenty of experience from the inside, including a stint as Walmart’s leader of vendor development and pricing strategy.

Gerald Harris prepared them for what Walmart would require, including building a sophisticated distribution and supply chain process to keep the store shelves packed with labels. He coached them on the pitch and Cole says she doesn’t think they could have landed the deal without him.

But Harris disagrees.

He believes the company’s story, its product and its aggressive marketing would have landed the labels at Walmart eventually. He says the giant retailer has a reputation for playing hardball with the big guys, but when it comes to small business, its approach is different.

“They are looking for more local products, more Canadian products, and, at least in the States, there is a big focus on businesses owned by women,” says Harris.

Harris says moms have always been Walmart’s core customer. For years, the typical shopper was dubbed “Linda” by the retailer. She had two or three kids, a double-car garage and a middle-class income.

“If you gain that shopper’s loyalty when her kids are young, she sticks with you when her kids are big, burly teenagers eating everything in sight. Who doesn’t want that customer?”

Cole says they jumped into retail in response to customers who often wish the labels were sold in stores. But at the same time, the partners worried about cannibalizing their own online business by going the retail route.

So they did market research and focus groups and determined that the two channels will serve different markets.

“Lots of people don’t order online or they need labels last minute because their kids are going to camp.”

Then the partners worried about how to transfer their personalized labels to a store. They considered the top 100 most popular names in spinning racks.

“But how do you manage that? How do you keep track? Oh, the Jennifers are sold out there and the Alexes are all gone there. It was too overwhelming.”

So they developed prototypes for peel and stick labels that are written on with marker and then a clear overlay is pressed over top as lamination, making the labels dishwasher and microwave proof. Called Write Away! Labels, they sell for $10.47 for a package of 30.

Jenn Williams, category manager for stationery with Walmart Canada, knew about Mabel’s Labels before the company pitched its product.

“I was very excited they had come to us. They had done their research and were very well prepared. It was a perfect match for Walmart because our customer is Mom.”

Cole says the Walmart deal is a huge step for the company and will mean some hiring.

“I can hardly believe it. The labels are on the shelves as of last week. I have never been to Walmart so many times in my life,” she jokes.

About half of Mabel’s online sales come from the U.S. and Harris says the next logical extension will be talking to Walmart there. But he says the plans are even bigger than that.

“We have a full North American go-to market strategy developed. We hope to be in lots of retailers in North America and beyond.”

With files from Torstar News

Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.

Focus on sustainability is good for business

When Tim Hortons wrote its first sustainability and responsibility report in 2008, just three competitors, McDonalds, Starbucks and Taco Bell/KFC parent company Yum, had reports of their own.

Just two years later, when Tim Faveri, the doughnut chain’s director of sustainability, reviewed the strategy, there were more than a dozen plans among competitors.

“There seemed to be a tipping point around that time,” said Faveri, who was the keynote speaker at Sustainable Hamilton’s boot camp event Wednesday.

He said investors, consumers and activists have pushed publicly traded companies to disclose their efforts on reducing their environmental impacts and tackling thorny issues such as the use of child labour and the treatment of animals.

The seminar featured several speakers who outlined ways businesses and organizations can design, implement and get buy-in for sustainability plans.

Sustainability runs the gamut from energy efficiency and waste reduction to community involvement and employee satisfaction.

“The people who are here really understand the possibilities offered by sustainability, that it helps them do the right thing and be better businesses,” said Sandi Stride, president and CEO of Sustainable Hamilton. “But they don’t know where to begin.”

The group is a year old and aims to convince Hamilton businesses to adopt sustainability as a strategy for greater prosperity.

The Tim Hortons plan is based on the three pillars of individuals (includes offering healthy options, responding to customer inquiries, food safety endeavours, employee advancement), communities (Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation, investment in community sports, partnerships with coffee growers) and the planet (reduction of packaging and energy use, waste diversion, build more LEED-certified restaurants).

Faveri acknowledged that the individual and planet aspects are works in progress, although the chain is the only one to offer china mugs and has been offering discounts for coffee in refillable travel mugs for years. The company has rolled out recycling bins to more than 800 of its 4,000-plus stores and focused on making its fleet more efficient.

It has also begun pursuing LEED certification for new stores. The first one was opened in Hamilton in late 2010 and the goal is to have 30 more certified in 2012.

“The community focus has been a baked in part of our brand and what we do as a company since the beginning. Our aim is to have the planet and individual pillars become that too.”

Faveri said all company stakeholders — franchise owners, employees, consumers, suppliers — and all divisions of the company had input into the plan. It includes data on energy use, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It is now published in the company’s annual report, alongside its financial results.

“The key things are that you need to make sure sustainability strategies meet the company’s overall goals. If you can’t make a robust business case for what you want to do, you will get pushback.”

Boot camp presenter David Arkell, president of energy consultancy 360 Energy, urged organizations to stop looking at their energy bills as a fixed cost rather than something that can be reduced by as much as 25 per cent without huge capital investments.

“Energy costs were cheap for a long time, so no one looked at them.”

They are typically buried in operational numbers on an income statement but can make up a huge portion of expenses, says Arkell.

Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.

Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – June 2012

In the June 2012 edition of Hamilton Highlights…

  • Downtown Hamilton Showcased at International Conference
  • Another Successful Year for the Hamilton 24 Festival
  • The 2012 E. R. Monaco Inspiring Youth Entrepreneurship Award
  • Did you know…

Click here to read the June 2012 Hamilton Highlights newsletter.  If you are interested in signing up for the Hamilton Highlights newsletter, click here.

Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – May 2012

In the May 2012 edition of Hamilton Highlights:

  • Major Downtown Conference in Hamilton this June
  • Introducing Sustainable Hamilton
  • Shining a Little Light on Designers
  • SBEC Business Plan Competition
  • Did you know…

Click here to read the May 2012 Hamilton Highlights newsletter.  If you are interested in signing up for the Hamilton Highlights newsletter, click here.

Canon Canada moved workers downtown

Canon Canada is moving 40 employees from Burlington into the core of Hamilton.

The company has taken space on the 16th floor of the office building at 21 King St. W.

Glen Norton, chief of the city’s downtown renewal department, said the company’s move was a complete surprise to the city – but a welcome surprise.

“We knew nothing about it,” he said. “They didn’t come to us for any incentives or advice or anything.”

Such moves aren’t uncommon, Norton said.

“This was a quiet move. They made the decision that Hamilton was where they wanted to go and then gave a broker the mandate to find them the right space.

“This is sign that we’re really making some progress,” he said. “They just went ahead and made their decision based on the business case for Hamilton.”

Canon makes copiers and printers among other equipment.

Company spokesman Ian Mcfarlane couldn’t be reached for comment.

Norton said the 40 jobs Canon brings to the core is a major boost, considering the area drew 330 new positions in all of last year.

He also added there’s room for more firms in the core – the office vacancy rate was just under 13 per cent in January. An updated number is being researched now.

The Hamilton Spectator

Activation Lab’s technological edge leading to global growth

Twenty-five years ago Eric Hoffman launched his one-man business to developActivation Labs president Dr. Eric Hoffman watches a robotic machine analyze iron ore samples. The company is growing and will soon start construction on a 200,000-square-foot building. mining exploration technologies in a small enterprise centre in Brantford.

It was, at first, a lonely venture. He had a family to support but he also had the vision to capitalize on technologies the economic geochemist knew were being developed by Canadian academics like him. It was just a matter of seeing the vision through.

He moved to Ancaster a few years later to be near McMaster University’s nuclear reactor — the only reactor in Canada that could be used commercially for the kind of mineral testing he had developed.

“We needed an edge over our competition and that was technology … that research that had not been applied commercially.”

It’s a formula that’s worked.

By the end of this year, Hoffman expects Activation Lab’s workforce will number about 1,500 people in 40 locations around the world. A new one in Burkina Faso just opened in March.

He expects about 100 new jobs will be added to the workforce of 350 at the corporate headquarters in Ancaster, from general labourers to staff with Ph.D or master’s degrees. Included among staff are his three children who were in school when he started, and his wife, who runs the human resources department.

Activation Labs has now also developed new branches, using high-tech methods and equipment in other industrial sectors such as life sciences, materials, environmental and agricultural.

In February, the company received $900,000 from provincial and federal development funds to further research into DNA-analysis soil tests which promise to determine if the conditions exist for a soybean cysnematode infestation — a common and debilitating problem common to the cash crop.

The company is now building a 200,000-square-foot lab in the Ancaster Industrial Park where Activation already has five buildings. This new one will house a mineral testing facility. One of the current buildings will house new agricultural and environmental labs.

But this is just one aspect of the incredible growth at Activation.

Hoffman said as minerals are discovered and mined, the need to use technology to discover deposits that are not easy to detect becomes more urgent, particularly for rare earth minerals, or harder to detect elements such as graphite. Then there is always the rush for gold.

Activation has created testing systems using a myriad of largely proprietary technologies to find mineral deposits by analyzing soil, rock, or even the bark of a tree or the bacteria in soil.

“We have developed a lot of technologies which can do that in a very cost effective way,” he said. “A lot of our technologies are unique.”

Activation has been actively growing domestically — moving its Thunder Bay facility into a larger building, for example, and this year opening a new western Canadian regional office in Kamloops, B.C.

By 1995 Activation had gone global, with a purchase of a company in the United States then eventually new labs in Australia and South America. Activation will open four locations in African countries this year and is currently building two in Mongolia.

Hoffman said even four years ago he never would have considered opening a business in Africa, but times, and the need for minerals, have changed.

“People have a fear of going outside Canada. We don’t see that there are a lot of companies going global,” he said. “Africa has been a continent that has been overlooked because of instability. There are areas that are still unable to be developed but there are areas that are ripe for development. It was a pretty well-kept secret. ”

He has also taken a different tack by hiring locals to manage foreign locations rather than expats.

“We find that employees prefer to work for someone from their home country. Many multinationals don’t do this.”

Hoffman said while there are difficulties with doing business in foreign areas such as Africa such as shipping delays and hiring staff, there are just as many doing business at home.

The reality is, however, Hoffman said he hasn’t hesitated because the demand for his business won’t allow it.

“We’ll never be a multinational billion-dollar company but we are likely fifth in the world in our industry,” he said. “We are good at developing technology and at seeing the potential advantage to commercializing applications (of academic research). I would say actually we’re very good at that.”

This article is for personal use only courtesy of TheSpec.com – a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

New flying school opens at Hamilton airport

A new flying school has landed at Hamilton airport.

Golden Horseshoe Aviation started operating at the Mount Hope field May 1 aiming to provide “busy business professionals who work or live in the Golden Horseshoe Area with access to safe, convenient private or commercial pilot training.”

John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport has been without a flying school since 2008 when the airport operator forced Peninsulair out in order to turn its hangar over to another tenant.

“We are committed to providing Hamilton and the surrounding region with the opportunity to access high quality flight training” said airport president Frank Scremin in a news release. “We recognize the need for general aviation services, including flight training, at the airport and are thrilled to partner with Golden Horseshoe Aviation to offer a service that meets the demands of the general aviation community.”

Golden Horseshoe president Michael Geraghty said Hamilton airport would give his students “a sophisticated, controlled airspace that will allow them to develop the confidence and ability needed to fly in the busy airways of Canada and the United States.”

Golden Horseshoe boasts of its “executive class” surroundings, small class size, late- model aircraft equipped with modern avionics, flight briefings delivered using both “old-fashioned” white boards and online learning modules, and a full-motion flight simulator for students and recertification for existing pilots.

The company also rents late-model airplanes for existing pilots and provides aerial sightseeing for residents and visitors.

This article is for personal use only courtesy of TheSpec.com – a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

Headquarters Hamilton

Joel Auge is about to hit play on a new business in HamiltJoel Auger, president of Hitgrab gaming company, is planning to open an office in Hamilton. The creator of the popular Facebook game MouseHunt has an operation in Toronto.on.

The 33-year-old already runs a 23-employee company in Toronto called HitGrab, which develops online games — think popular Facebook fantasy MouseHunt — for social networks.

He’s ready to expand into the mobile game market in a big way, but first HitGrab’s CEO wants to expand his virtual biz physically into Hamilton.

“Part of it is the talent pool … I don’t think very many companies are taking advantage of this particular talent pool in Hamilton,” said Auge, who hopes to scoop up between four and 10 talented programmers and designers — perhaps McMaster and Mohawk grads — before they “scatter” to other cities.

As a Flamborough resident, Auge is also looking forward to skipping the commute to his Toronto headquarters. “But to be honest, it comes down to cheap space, too.”

He’s part of a growing trend of business owners eyeing Hamilton as a potential relocation destination, according to city business gurus. “It’s absolutely happening,” said city economic development director Neil Everson. “Our last four years have probably been the best in the last 25 in terms of (incoming) companies and company expansion.”

Canada Revenue Agency statistics show Hamilton had about 350 more businesses in 2010 with revenues over $30,000 compared to 2009. They’re not all imports, of course. But Everson said their success breeds local startups and expansions, too. “It’s all part of a positive momentum for the city,” he said.

The city doesn’t specifically track transplanted businesses or out-of-towner expansions into Hamilton, but Everson can rattle off a list of the biggest without a second thought.

Canada Bread and later Maple Leaf Foods, its parent company, represent the biggest fish recently reeled in by the city following a countrywide consolidation. The bakery and deli meats plant will have combined to bring almost 1,000 jobs and $500 million in investment to the city’s Red Hill Business Park by 2014.

Tim Hortons opened a $30-million roasting facility in Ancaster in 2010, shortly before Winnipeg agri-food giant Parrish & Heimbecker signed a long-term lease to set up shop in almost 400,000 square feet of space on Pier 10.

The city’s “creative industries” are also luring new businesses every year, said David Adames, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, with 300 new arts and culture-related jobs created in the downtown alone last year.

Everson lists five reasons in particular for Hamilton’s success in luring out-of-towners:

Cheap, available property: The Real Estate Investment Network named Hamilton Ontario’s No. 1 place to invest.

Cost-competitiveness: It’s cheaper to set up and run a business in Hamilton. For example, wages must be higher in Toronto to account for higher cost of living.

Transportation: Easy access to railroads, the harbour, the airport and major highways such as the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

Quality of life: Don’t underestimate the value of uncongested streets.

Intellectual infrastructure: our post-secondary institutions, health research facilities and related incubation centres such as Innovation Factory.

Innovation Factory is dedicated to helping start and grow innovative new businesses, has 10 clients that have either recently arrived in Hamilton or are considering the move, said experience manager Tammy Hwang.

Several have moved from Toronto seeking cheaper real estate and a “resource network” of associated businesses, she said. One, a solar power technology company, started out in China but moved to Hamilton to better serve a slew of regional clients.

Proximity and affordability lured Stephanie McLarty, founder of surplus electronics resaler REfficient. McLarty said she started out in Mississauga, but got hooked on Hamilton after taking on a couple of area customers.

“Cost of warehousing space was huge for us. I’d say it’s 30 per cent cheaper here than in the rest of the GTA,” said McLarty, who set up shop here last year. With her business exporting more equipment to the United States, she also likes her location between the border and Toronto.

She likes the city, too — something she admits was a “pleasant surprise.”

That feeling of surprise, she said, might be one of the city’s big business challenges. “Hamilton still has that ‘dirty’ image that it needs to kick,” she said. “It’s important for my business, too, because it becomes an issue for me in attracting the talented employees I need.”

McLarty’s wish list also includes transit improvements, so she cheered the promised GO train frequency improvements on the horizon. “Whether you’re a business owner or a potential employee, you need to realize Hamilton isn’t actually that far away (from Toronto),” she said. “The better the transportation links, the easier it will be to recruit and keep people.”

Nem Food
What: Frozen food manufacturer, contemporary Asian cuisine, in Stoney Creek
Who: Helen Thieu
From there to here: Vietnam
When: Immigrated 2008, new manufacturing plant in 2010
Employees: 14
What brings you to Hamilton? “I like the city very much, the convenience, everything is close, and traffic is good — we don’t have the problems, the (traffic) jams like in Toronto … I was going to go to Toronto, but I am happy here.”
What doesn’t? High property taxes

What: Surplus electronics resale, recycling and sustainability auditing services, on Sherman Avenue North
Who: Stephanie McLarty, CEO
From there to here: Mississauga
When: 2011
Employees: 6
What brings you to Hamilton? “Cost of warehouse space was huge for us.”
What doesn’t? A “dirty” image problem the city needs to solve

What: Internet TV broadcaster and business training venture on the Mountain
Who: Mark Ironside
From there to here: Toronto
When: 2011
Employees: self-employed owner
What brings you to Hamilton? “The right space at the right price … I’m from Hamilton, so the idea of giving back was appealing.”
What doesn’t? City bureaucracy and “atrocious” taxes

Isis Digital Media
What: Mobile data collection solutions for health, education sectors in Waterdown
Who: Eric West, president
From there to here: Halton
When: late 2011
Employees: 10
What brings you to Hamilton? “This was the perfect building, the perfect opportunity … it sounds silly, but this is the first office space I’ve worked in where I can actually open the windows.”
What doesn’t? Metered street parking in a small commercial core

What: Online marketplace and “matchmaking service” for gift cards
Who: Sean Snyder, chief “swap” officer
From there to here: Toronto
When: 2010
Employees: 5
What brings you to Hamilton? “It was the economics. The cost of setting up a business, of doing business is less here, for sure.”
What doesn’t? Keeping valued employees from scattering to larger centres is a challenge

Hansen & Lubbers
What: Furniture and home décor store on James Street North
Who: Richard Lubbers and Craig Hansen
From there to here: Oakville (they still have a store there, too)
When: moved 2010, opened store 2011
Employees: 2 (owner-operators)
What brings you to Hamilton? “We moved here to live, so that was a big part of it … but we also wanted to be part of the James Street experience.”
What doesn’t? No beefs at the moment, but looking forward to GO Transit improvements

What: Online social game creator, branching out into mobile games
Who: Joel Auge, CEO
From there to here: Toronto (still has offices there)
When: Hoping for 2012
Employees: 23 in Toronto, between four and 10 planned for Hamilton
What brings you to Hamilton? “The talent pool … (and) it comes down to cheap space.”
What doesn’t? He hasn’t set up shop yet, so he doesn’t know

McAsphalt Industries
What: $30 million asphalt processing, shipping facility at Pier 24
Who: Kam Bhatia, vice-president engineering
From there to here: Toronto
When: Operations began 2011
Employees: 30+
What brings you to Hamilton? A great transportation hub. “Having that kind of transportation infrastructure is a key part of our business,” Bhatia has previously told The Spectator.

Chuck Gammage Animation
What: Animation studio on James Street North
Who: Chuck Gammage, owner
From there to here: Toronto
When: June 2011
Employees: 10
What brings you to Hamilton? “I moved this way first, so moving the business meant less of a commute for me … Financially speaking, it was also a good move, because I can get more space for less.”
What doesn’t? Less frequent GO Transit to Toronto can be a “major drawback” for employees. He’s glad service is scheduled to improve.

What: Creates educational enrichment programs for kids, McMaster Innovation Park
Who: Mohan Nadarajah, CEO
From there to here: Toronto, Oakville
When: 2011
Employees: 17, full time and part time
What brings you to Hamilton? PlayLab partnered with Hamilton business development firm Trivaris. “We started finding more partnerships in Hamilton, with Innovation Factory, with Mohawk (College).”

Maple Leaf Foods
What: National food giant, building $395-million deli meats plant at Red Hill Business Park
Who: Michael McCain, president
From there to here: Consolidating plants across the country, including in Kitchener
When: plant should be complete in 2014
Employees: 670 estimated
What brings you to Hamilton? A central location, highway access and cheap land. “It fit perfectly for our business,” McCain told The Spectator last year.
What doesn’t? Maple Leaf abandoned a plan to bring a pork plant to Hamilton in 2005 in the face of resident opposition.

This article is for personal use only courtesy of TheSpec.com – a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.


XCEEi and iF Foster Co-Creation on the Factory Floor

Hamilton, ON (May 1, 2012) – McMaster University’s Xerox Centre for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation (XCEEi) and Hamilton’s Regional Innovation Centre, Innovation Factory (iF), have come together to increase activities in the Don Pether Incubation Centre at McMaster Innovation Park. Recognizing that innovation and entrepreneurship are instrumental to Hamiltonʼs prosperity, the partnership aims to provide the space needed to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem with a new initiative: Factory Floor.

Click here to read the full release (PDF)




Ranked Canada's most diversified economy, home to Canada's busiest multi-modal cargo airport, the busiest port on the Canadian Great Lakes, and centrally located within a one hour drive to Toronto, Waterloo and the Niagara/US Border, Hamilton is at the center of it all. With two internationally renowned post-secondary institutions in the city (surrounded by 23 other), a diverse and learned workforce and both ample greenfield and urban sites upon which to build, we're ready for your investment.

Welcome to unstoppable.