Hamilton Economic Development

Hamilton Highlights Newsletter – June 2018

In the June edition of Hamilton Highlights…

  • National Steel Car Rolling Along
  • Hamilton Flying High
  • Tourism Hamilton welcomes back RBC Canadian Open in 2019 and 2023
  • Video Captures Development in Downtown Core
  • Coppley Investing in Downtown Hamilton

Click here to read the June 2018 Hamilton Highlights newsletter.  If you are interested in signing up for the Hamilton Highlights newsletter, click here.

Feisty low-cost Euro airline Norwegian Air taking off at Hamilton’s airport

Rapidly-growing low-cost airline Norwegian Air is breaking into the Canadian passenger air market by offering daily year-round flights from Hamilton International Airport to Dublin starting in March 2019.

What happened in Las Vegas did not stay in Las Vegas — and that’s a good thing for Hamilton International Airport, which has landed rapidly-growing low-cost carrier Norwegian Air.

The courtship began at a trade conference in February 2017, at what those in the business call speed-dating.

A team from Norwegian listened to 20-minute pitches from North American airports seeking their business.

Hamilton’s pitch: Its airport runs 24/7, has passenger service and is Canada’s third busiest cargo airport, with quick aircraft turnaround times from ground to air.

The kicker: Location. Just down the road from Toronto, and a catchment area of nine million people within a two-hour drive.

Norwegian was interested. Talks continued, and then negotiations with officials from the airport, owned by the City of Hamilton and operated by Vantage Airport Group.

This week two Norwegian Air officials arrived at the airport in Mount Hope for the first time to announce they are taking off in Hamilton — the company’s first foray into the Canadian market.

Norwegian Air will start flying out of Hamilton next March with a daily flight to Dublin, year-round. A one-way fare will start at $279, taxes included.

“It is a good price,” Anders Lindstrom, the airline’s communications director, told The Spectator. “We have one of the youngest fleets in the world, we will fly faster than our competitors, on lighter, more modern aircraft.”

He said the service won’t be billed as simply Hamilton-to-Dublin, rather each city will be considered a gateway for local excursions and travel further afield in Europe or Canada.

“We will be selling Hamilton to Europe — to Dublin, Oslo, Stockholm, Rome, to start, we will broaden it, there will be smooth connections, easy access.”

He added this is just the beginning, and more routes out of Hamilton will likely follow.

“We are committed to this market and we will be back with more announcements. We see so much potential here.”

The seven-hour flight to Ireland will start March 31.

Hamilton last offered seasonal summer flights to Europe from 2007 to 2009.

Toronto will be the prime marketing attraction for European travellers coming this way, but Lindstrom said the route will help popularize Hamilton: “Some people will go to Hamilton, some to Niagara Falls, the wine region.”

The plan had been for Norwegian to begin flying into Hamilton this summer, but navigating federal government approvals for Canadian air rights alone took nine months and the company wanted more lead-time to market their brand here.

Hamilton Airport president and CEO Cathie Puckering said she is beyond excited for “this opportunity, and this partnership. We know the Hamilton market is ready for service to Europe.”

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger applauded the news, saying through a spokesperson that it will add to airport revenues and offer international flight options for customers beyond having to fly out of Toronto or Buffalo.

Passenger traffic has been up and down over the years, and at times proximity to Toronto has seemed more a curse than blessing.

About 15 years ago, WestJet made the airport its eastern hub and the airport handled one million passengers a year, but the company later moved most of its flights to Pearson Airport and the numbers plummeted.

Still, in 2017, the number of passengers at Hamilton Airport climbed to 600,000 or an 80 per cent increase over the previous year.

Currently WestJet, Flair Air, and Air Canada, fly out of Hamilton, and a new player launched this week — WestJet’s “ultra-low-cost” brand Swoop, which is now offering nonstop flights to Edmonton, Abbotsford, B.C., Winnipeg and Halifax.

On Monday — the same day Norwegian Air officials met with Puckering and media at the airport — Swoop flight attendants were doing dry-run practice manoeuvres in the terminal for their inaugural flight, dressed in the carrier’s signature pink colour scheme.

In keeping with Swoop’s cheeky marketing strategy, a sign in the terminal with a height measurement read: “You must be THIS tall to fly Swoop” and then below: “Ha! Gotcha! Extra tall, super short, or statistically average, we love you all! #Flyswoop.”

A wall adjacent to the check-in counter painted Swoop pink was the first thing that caught the eye of Norwegian Air’s chief commercial officer Thomas Ramdahl when he arrived.

He smiled when he told The Spectator he envisions replacing the pink with a nice solid red, his company’s colour.

Norwegian Air also announced it will operate seasonal flights out of Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique starting this fall.

(Montreal is a reminder that passenger service is never a sure thing for an airport: Montréal-Mirabel International Airport had its last commercial passenger flight 14 years ago. It now exclusively handles cargo traffic.)

Norwegian Air operates more than 500 routes to 150 destinations around the world, but Hamilton is just the third leg in its North American strategy targeting small-to-medium sized airports near large cities.

It currently flies out of T.F. Green International Airport in Warwick, R.I., (100 kilometres south of Boston) and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y. (100 kilometres north of Manhattan).

With a fleet of Boeing 737 Max jets, smaller airports allow them to keep aircraft only briefly on the ground, minimizing their footprint, maximizing revenue and keeping costs down. (Six years ago the company purchased 100 of the jets, at US$120 million each, with an option for 100 more.)

Among the customers they are attracting, Ramdahl said, are those who desire travelling to Europe two or three times a year by purchasing cheap fares, and avoiding spending several hours in large airports.

“You see many millennials travelling with us, who use us an entry point into Europe, backpacking by air, basically.”

European media coverage of Norwegian’s rise has suggested they are growing too quickly, but company officials said some rival carriers simply don’t like the competition.

Ramdahl spoke highly of WestJet, however, and said he hopes Norwegian will be able to “explore possibilities of co-operation” with the airline in Canada, adding WestJet shares aspects of their “non-traditional” business philosophy.

Ramdahl and Lindstrom limited their stay in Hamilton to one night in a hotel on Upper James Street and a walk to Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill for dinner, but vowed to eventually sample more of what the city offers.

This weekend they fly to the U.S. west coast for more talks with officials from two airports, one large and one small, “to see if there are possibilities.”

Article courtesy of Jon Wells, The Hamilton Spectator

Low-cost airline Swoop takes flight in Hamilton

A new low-cost airline is coming to Hamilton.

Swoop, an offshoot of WestJet Airlines, will be taking off from Hamilton International Airport with its inaugural flight to Abbotsford, B.C., taking off at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Steven Greenway, president and CEO of Swoop, said they chose Hamilton because it’s cost-effective, efficient, and travellers can board and disembark from the plane in a matter of minutes, which is ideal for a ULCC (ultra-low cost carrier).

Greenway said the average flight will start at just over $100 and doesn’t include excess fees like baggage and seat selection.

“I think Swoop can actually revolutionize Canada in terms of travel patterns,” said Greenway. “Where people are catching cars and buses today, they’ll be able to fly. For those who can only afford perhaps one flight a year, they can now afford two or three. For those people who are taking their hard-earned Canadian dollars over the border and flying U.S. airlines to other destinations, I say, ‘Come back, and fly with us from Hamilton.’”

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said Hamiltonians have been asking for more convenience when it comes to travelling out of the city’s airport.

“You know, if you talk to a Hamiltonian today, what do they want from our airport? They want to have more destinations, more locations, more convenience to be able to fly right here out of Hamilton. And that’s what we’re able to do today.”

He added that Canada is behind other parts of the world when it comes to offering consumers a low-cost no-frills model of air travel.

“To go to one major city to another, in Europe, it’s a hundred bucks, or equivalent to a train ride or a boat ride or any other form of transportation,” said Eisenberger. “High volume at lower cost and building your own amenities is really the way to go for future flight.

Cathie Puckering, president and CEO of Hamilton International Airport, said the launch of Swoop comes halfway through a year that began with the airport earning the title of the fastest-growing airport in Canada, with 600,000 passengers travelling through in 2017.

“We’ve known for over 20 years that this is the airport that needs to satisfy the passengers and the new opportunities that are in the marketplace today,” said Puckering. “And flying on Swoop is an opportunity that we are so glad to be supporting and part of.”

Currently, Swoop only has two planes and five destinations within Canada — Hamilton, Abbotsford, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg — but the airline hopes to have six planes and offer international destinations by the end of the year.

Article courtesy of Lisa Polewski, 900 CHML

Hamilton planting an artistic seed in the Baltic

Estonia isn’t the sort of place that comes up in conversation when local artists sit down over coffee at the Mulberry.

The kind of chit chat that goes, “Have you heard what they’re doing with digital manipulation at the Estonian Institute of Humanities?”

Or even, “I met the most darling transhuman ethicist from the University of Tartu the other day.”

That may all change due to an extraordinary new collaboration between the Hamilton Arts Council, The Cotton Factory and the Estonian Artists Association, which is based in Tallinn, the tiny Baltic nation’s capital.

It’s an artist exchange. They send us one of theirs for a one-month residency and we send them one of ours. The plan is to make it an annual event.

Tor Lukasik-Foss, one of Hamilton’s better known multi-genre artists, will venture to Estonia in September to create new work, deliver talks and mingle with fellow artists, maybe even have a beer with them.

Lukasik-Foss, who is of Norwegian descent, has never been to Estonia and knows none of its language, but feels confident he will be able to express himself through art.

Lukasik-Foss works in multiple forms of visual art, but is also a songwriter who performs under the name Tiny Bill Cody. He’s already thinking about working traditional Baltic themes into his own unique way of storytelling.

“I want to do some songwriting while I’m there, contemporizing myth and folk tale as the basis,” says Lukasik-Foss, who will take a month-long leave from his job as director of programs and education at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. “I’m hoping to write, perform and be as collaborative as possible.”

So far, the Estonians are one ahead of us in terms of the exchange. Last October, they sent multimedia artist Marko Mäetamm, who spent a month working on new projects in a studio provided by The Cotton Factory and giving artist talks.

The experiment was considered a success and Mäetamm is returning in Hamilton for an exhibition of his art at the b contemporary gallery on James Street North from Sept. 4 to 29.

While Lukasik-Foss is in Estonia wowing the locals, Estonian artist Peeter Laurits, who works in photography and digital manipulation, will be working in Hamilton’s Cotton Factory.

The exchange is the brainchild of Robert Zeidler, a Toronto transplant who bought the century-old Imperial Cotton building on Sherman North in 2014 for $4.7 million, renovated it, and turned it into a workspace for more than 110 artists, crafts workers, fashion designers, film and music makers.

Since his investment, Zeidler has become a huge advocate and patron of the Hamilton arts scene.

For the past year, he has set aside one studio for an “artist in residence” program, which provides free rent for two emerging artists over a three-month period.

The residencies are juried by the Hamilton Arts Council, with Zeidler eating the rental cost. So far nine young artists have benefited from the program. (The current artists — Stylo Starr, who specializes in collage, and Tanya Denyer, a quilter — will hold an artists’ talk on June 14, 7 p.m., at the The Cotton Factory).

“It’s been a big success and we think it’s going to continue to be a success,” says Zeidler. “It allows young artists to stay in Hamilton and not go seeking a residency in another city like Toronto.”

Last year, Zeidler decided to broaden the residency’s horizon to include an international exchange component. But with what country?

He started doing research and discovered a lively artistic community in Estonia, population less than 1.4 million.

“The whole Baltic art scene is exploding right now and has been for the last 15 years,” says Zeidler. “And because the country is so small, the artists have to have an international perspective. To be successful, they have to get out and be international.”

Zeidler met the Estonian ambassador to Canada and was even more impressed.

“She came to Hamilton to visit the local Estonian community,” he says. “I was quite inspired by her. She spoke about the arts and freedom, and I thought, this is exactly who we need to partner with.”

Zeidler’s Cotton Factory funded Mäetamm’s trip here last year, including his flight, apartment rent, and a weekly honorarium.

The Cotton Factory is doing the same for Lukasik-Foss and Laurits, as well as a trip to Estonia next in mid-June by Hamilton Arts Council executive director Annette Paiement.

The Arts Council is responsible for selecting the Hamilton participants in the exchange, making sure things run smoothly on the Estonian end, as well as helping to find new sources of funding.

“I’ll be making sure that the residency is set up well for Tor when he arrives in September,” Paiement says. “The goal is to create good relations, to investigate other possible opportunities and partnerships so that we can keep the program going and expand it over many years.”

Article courtesy of Graham Rockingham, The Hamilton Spectator



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