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Hamilton Economic Development

City’s brownfield investment model all the talk at conference

Photo of Bunge manufacturing facilityWhen Hamilton launched its incentive program to lure private investment in brownfield properties, it was all alone.

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.

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