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Hamilton Port Authority gains $100 million new investment in 2015

SHIPPINGMore than $100 million in new investment poured into the Port of Hamilton this year.

That money brought a new grain terminal, a new local brewery and the first new flour mill to be built in Ontario in 75 years into the Hamilton Port Authority.

The investments continue a growing trend of agricultural products shipped through Hamilton as steel industry shipments continue to stagnate.

“On the agricultural side we’ve been very successful in creating a hub right here,” said HPA vice-president Ian Hamilton. “For this year we’ve brought in just north of $100 million in new investment.”

The new Hamilton investments include a $45-million flour mill by the milling division of grain-handling giant Parrish and Heimbecker Limited at the foot of Wellington Street North; a $50-million grain terminal by Winnipeg-based G3 Global Grain Group at Pier 26 off Eastport Drive and the $10-million Arts and Science Brewery at the former Lakeport plant on Burlington Street near Wellington.

While final cargo figures for the year won’t be available for a few weeks, Hamilton said he anticipates overall volume will drop by one million tonnes, most of it because of declining shipments of iron ore and other steel industry raw materials.

“What’s down is raw materials for the steel industry, but almost every other category of cargo is up,” he said. “For the last seven years we’ve been working very hard to invest in the right things and now it’s showing results.”

Steel and its raw materials used to account for more than 80 per cent of the cargo volume through Hamilton, while agricultural cargo totalled about eight per cent. Steel and its components have now shrunk to just over 67 per cent while grains and other farm cargo account for almost 20 per cent of the volume.

In 2014, agri-food tonnage passed the two million tonne mark in Hamilton. Construction material has also been a growing sector as infrastructure projects have moved ahead.

Stephen Brooks, president of the Ottawa-based Marine Chamber of Commerce, said the trend in Hamilton is reflected across the national system.

“Our overall volume this year will be down slightly from last year, but the losses are all in coal and iron ore, things that are impacted by the global economy,” he said. “Outside of those things it was a very good year for us.

“We’re especially encouraged to see the strong movement of construction materials continue,” he added.

To the end of November the Seaway reported 31.5 million tonnes of cargo moved on the waterway. That’s down about 10 per cent from 2014, but a final surge of vessels rushed into the system in December to move grain from Thunder Bay and deliver industrial raw materials as companies stocked up for the winter.

The number of ships in the system at the start of December was higher than the five-year average, the Seaway said in a news release.

“The 2015 shipping season has mirrored North American and global economic trends,” Seaway president Terence Bowles said in the release. “Domestic and cross-border transport of cement, stone, gypsum, aluminum and machinery continues full throttle in response to heightened construction activity and a strong automotive sector.”

For 2016, Hamilton and Brooks see a bright outlook as the economies of Canada and the United States improve.

“I think we’ll continue to see Seaway shipping as a leading indicator of the rest of the binational economies,” Brooks said.

Adding to the outlook for 2016 are the anticipated benefits of investments in new ships by major companies such as St. Catharines-based Algoma Central Corporation, Hamilton’s McKeil Marine and Port Dover’s Lower Lakes Towing.

“The investments we’ve seen in recent weeks are testaments that there is still plenty of opportunity in Great Lakes-Seaway shipping,” Bowles said in the release.

Hamilton said the local authority has developed strongly in recent years by marketing a combination of ease of access to the largest markets in North America with a solid inventory of industrial land that can be brought to use without long and expensive rezoning applications.

“The problem is we’re virtually out of available land now,” he said. “We’re in a good position for more development, but we have to answer this land problem.”

One strong prospect for solving that problem is the chance U.S. Steel Canada will sell some of its bayfront industrial property next year as it continues to struggle to restructure its finances while under court-supervised creditor protection.

The Hamilton Port Authority was a bidder for some of that land during a sales process U.S.S.C. conducted and then abandoned this year. A new process is expected to be carried out in 2016.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

City hopes to cash in on provincial economic development program

Arial photo of McMaster Innovation Park areaHamilton will be jumping into the fray to promote key industrial sites as part of a new provincial economic development program.

Gabe De Roche, spokesperson for Eric Hoskins, minister of economic trade, development and employment, said the province launched the Investment Ready: Certified Site program last December in response to competition from several states south of the border.

“One of the ways we can compete is finding ways to identify sites which are shovel-ready,” he said.

The idea is to create an inventory of sites throughout the province that have key features, such as a minimum of 10 acres, existing public road access, proper zoning, servicing and utilities and no major constraints on developing the property.

Owners of potential sites must work with the local municipality to apply for inclusion on the list.

In addition, the province is offering a $25,000 incentive to owners of qualified sites as a rebate for up to 50 per cent of costs associated with making the property investment ready. Each municipality can submit two sites for the incentive, but Jennifer Patterson, senior business development consultant for the city’s economic development team, said the number of sites to be submitted for inclusion in the province’s program could be more than that.

“It’s a good tool,” said Patterson. “It puts us on a level playing field (with the American states). We want to be in the game along with everyone else.”

Mark Stewart, marketing and leasing manager for McMaster Innovation Park, attended the workshop Wednesday.

He said, for MIP, the biggest advantage of the provincial initiative is the cost savings the program will bring to marketing the park’s 15 hectares to potential investors. He said he often attends trade shows to attract research-intensive or high-tech firms, and the costs associated with advertising in brochures or travel can be quite high.

The next application deadline for the program is April 15, and Stewart said he intends to apply to be included in the list of potential sites for investment.

“The program looks like it could be a great benefit to land owners as they can leverage the (foreign direct investment) work the province does. If MIP is included in the listings, then we know that as the listing is promoted at events and in advertisements worldwide, MIP is also promoted.”

Patterson said the city hopes to partner with agents or owners of at least one, if not more, sites by the deadline.

The provincial program can be accessed at www.ontario.ca/certifiedsite.

Article courtesy of Lisa Marr, The Hamilton Spectator

Two local companies receive energy awards

Two Hamilton-area companies were among five recognized by Horizon Utilities for energy conservation initiatives.

Graybar Canada in Hamilton and Agri-Plastics in Stoney Creek were presented Wednesday with Energy Savings Champions Awards by Horizon president and CEO Max Cananzi during a luncheon.

Graybar was presented with an award for contractor participation and Agri-Plastics won the energy savings award.

Graybar, located on Morley Street, is a wholesale distributor for items from various manufacturers of automation and electrical products. It is based in Halifax and operates more than 30 locations across Canada.

Agri-Plastics is located on Arvin Avenue and builds hutches and housing units for calves. It is owned by a third-generation dairy family and its headquarters is in Grassie in West Lincoln.

The annual award also recognized Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse) for demand reduction and Wilson Blanchard and Johnson Controls for most innovative project. All three businesses are located in St. Catharines.

Article courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator.

Life Science cluster is chance of a lifetime for Hamilton

Keanin Loomis, President of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce photoHamilton has everything it needs to be a Canadian life sciences leader, except leadership.

A new study by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce seeks to plug that gap by forming a new group to ignite development in the sector.

The study shows the city once known for steel and heavy manufacturing now is vying for the title of Canada’s health care capital.

To get that title, the study calls for a new leader to focus on the sector.

Entitled Building a Life Science Cluster, the report says Hamilton has a “once-in-a-generation” chance to develop a new source of economic and social wealth if it can get all the players already in that field working together.

Chamber president Keanin Loomis said developing such a cluster has been talked about for years in Hamilton, but now there’s a clear road map to get there.

“This report isn’t just fluff, platitudes and generalities,” he said. “It’s the culmination of almost three years of work. It took a long time but it was done right.”

Loomis added the mere fact of doing the study helped focus the attention of players on the need to work together, and that should pay dividends in the future.

The chamber report said Hamilton already has the tools needed to build that cluster — what it needs is a catalyst to get all the other elements working together.

“Hamilton needs to increase the amount of dedicated infrastructure designed to nurture the formation of this industry cluster, such as life sciences incubation space. We have insufficient venture capital flowing to the region, and there are too few programs working to promote and exploit Hamilton’s life sciences assets, or to create a culture of commercialization within the life sciences sector itself,” the report notes. “Arguably, we also lack significant business expertise required to commercialize and support business ventures. Most importantly, there is no driving force or chief advocate leading the charge for the establishment of a life sciences industry cluster in Hamilton.”

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To overcome that lack the chamber calls for the formation of a cluster working group consisting of leaders from the public and private sectors to ignite the next phase of development.

The report grew out of recommendations from the 2012 Hamilton Economic Summit. It notes there are 300 Hamilton companies involved in some type of life sciences work supporting 20,000 direct and indirect jobs. Players include firms such as Titan Medical Inc. which has a research facility in Ancaster working on new robotic surgical technology; Face the World Cosmetics, specializing in camouflage therapy for people with severe skin conditions and Hamilton Medical Research Group which works on developing new drugs and getting them to market.

The latest Labour Force Survey numbers from Statistics Canada show 53,300 people employed in manufacturing in December, up 9.8 per cent from the previous January. The professional/scientific and health service categories provided 81,500 jobs, up 10.4 per cent from January 2013.

The chamber report concludes building a successful life sciences cluster requires five elements: a critical mass of knowledge and talent; an industrial base; infrastructure and funding; the support of players in the sector; and a driving force.

Hamilton is ranked excellent or good on the knowledge and support of players scales, fair on the state of its life sciences industrial base and fair-to-poor on infrastructure and the lack of a driving force for development.

Developing a life sciences cluster has been part of Hamilton’s economic development strategy since 2010. Norm Schleehahn, the department business development manager, said in an email exchange Hamilton’s base of knowledge and institutions make the goal an achievable one for the city.

“We have a strong knowledge infrastructure with internationally ranked life science research institutions … and significant investments in developing technologists to address the service side of health care delivery,” he wrote.

Mayor Bob Bratina called the report “a good overview” of an important issue for the city and said he hopes to be able to bring a recommendation to council soon to “address some of the issues in the report.”

Key players in such a cluster will be institutions such as Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), McMaster University and the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP).

Rob MacIsaac, new chief executive of HHS, praised the chamber for showing leadership on the issue and said the hospital network “will be at the table” when the strategy is set.

“I think it’s a no-brainer to anyone in Hamilton that we can achieve more by working together than we can alone,” he said. “This is a good first step in what we have to do.”

Zach Douglas, president of MIP, said his institution is already involved in the effort by creating a large incubator space. What’s more exciting, he added, is the sense all the players in the cluster accept the idea they have to work together.

“There’s clear evidence that some things are happening around here but more of it can be done,” he said. “Now we have to get everyone together to digest this report and see if there’s a way to move forward.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

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