Communication with local government is key to solving challenges around downtown development and the city’s sometimes suffering image, Hamilton’s young professionals agree.
“The only way to really effect change is to be part of it. We need more people downtown to speak up,” said 24-year-old Michael Pett, one of around 150 small-business owners and entrepreneurs who attended the Hive X conference at the Sheraton Hotel Saturday. The second annual event was organized by Hamilton Hive, a network of young career professionals committed to contributing to the city’s future.
In a series of workshops, conference-goers brainstormed ideas for boosting small business, Hamilton’s image, downtown renewal and innovation. They also drove traffic online, sharing thoughts about the city and community building on Twitter and YouTube.
“I think it provided a platform where young professionals can congregate and converse and collaborate, and I think we did that quite well,” said conference chair Michael Marini. “On Twitter, we trended to third in Canada, which I thought was very impressive, as was the quality of the presentations, the moderators and the final products.”
In addition to the four workshops, Saturday’s program also included a panel discussion on how young professionals are influencing the media, featuring Hamilton Spectator editor-in-chief Paul Berton and CBC Hamilton producer Roger Gillespie, as well as a keynote address on innovation and entrepreneurship from Ty Shattuck, president of high-end imaging company PV Labs.
The take-away, Marini agreed, was about communication and connecting with one another. He was also encouraged by Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins’s suggestion around the creation of a reporting system between Hamilton Hive and a subcommittee of council.
“That was great to hear,” he said.
While Collins, the lone councillor in attendance, disagreed with some who claimed council was unsupportive of downtown, he did acknowledge a broken link between the city and the local business community.
“We’ve had sort of a divisive relationship over the last number of years,” he said. “I think the city needs to start building bridges.”
He also asked for the group’s input on what he considers “the biggest challenge” facing council today — that is, how to convince young professionals and families to invest and live in the core.
Steve Kulakowsky has already been won over. As co-owner of Core Urban Inc., he’s shown his commitment to downtown renewal through unique residential developments, such as the Witton Lofts on Murray Street.
“I think this a great pump-up, a group hug for the city,” he said of Hive X. “For all these people to be believers in downtown, is a good thing.”
But for Hamilton Hive chair Ryan Moran, the real value that comes out of the day is in what the city’s young professionals do once they leave the conference.
“It’s what they take forward into the community in the future,” he said. “So although you might talk about ideas today, although you might meet someone you’ve never met before, it’s what you do with that idea and with that person tomorrow. That’s the impact.”
Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.