Hamilton Economic Development

Welcome to our ‘city of opportunity’

Photo of Hamilton Harbour AreaHamilton is a “city of opportunity” for corporations looking for alternatives to the congestion and overheated real estate market of Toronto, says commercial property giant Colliers International.

In a study released Thursday, Colliers says Hamilton is to Toronto what Milwaukee is to Chicago. The two medium-sized “anchor cities” have much in common, including a similar history of deindustrialization and recent revitalization.

But Hamilton is about 70 kilometres from Toronto, compared to 150 km between Chicago and Milwaukee.

“Major cities are slowly grinding to a halt,” said Colliers’ senior vice-president Sydney Hamber during a breakfast presentation in raw third-floor office space in the Right House building downtown.

Traffic congestion and high housing costs are making employment in metropolitan areas more difficult, said Hamber.

Colliers says Hamilton has five key attributes that will allow corporations relocating from the GTA to manage cuts and retain employees:

• Lower overall rent, taxes and development charges for the corporation and costs of living for employees.

• A highly skilled labour force.

• Redevelopment opportunities in terms of industrial and office stock and city incentives.

• Lower commute times.

• Lifestyle amenities, including natural and cultural.

While much has been made of the influx of Toronto buyers on the residential side, Hamber says the same draw of affordability and urban amenities exists in the industrial and office sectors.

“There is a significant supply and demand imbalance in the city. We are seeing multiple offers on some industrial buildings.”

He believes idled U.S. Steel Canada lands have the potential to bring as many as 24,000 jobs to the city.

“It’s all here if we want to go and get it … If the city plays its cards right, we will become the city of the future.”

Colliers, which has 16,300 employees in 67 countries, joins the Real Estate Investment Network and Foreign Direct Investment in citing Hamilton as among the best places to invest in the country.

Jason Thorne, the city’s director of planning and economic development, said he’s set a goal for his department to “make Hamilton the best place in Canada to start and grow a business.”

He acknowledged this will be a tall order and will mean examining all aspects of his department’s operations, from marketing and business attraction to making development approvals streamlined and predictable.

“But it’s what we need to do to keep this wave of interest and keep it going.”

He pointed out that Hamilton’s economy is measured as the most diverse in Canada. He said a range of city incentives have succeeded in luring investment.

“We are well positioned to continue this growth. By no means are we approaching the limits of growth.”

Hamber says when he began his commercial real estate career, he thought Hamilton was on the cusp of a turnaround.

“I’m a very patient man because it’s been 32 years and we’re in it now.”

Also Thursday, the Conference Board of Canada released its 2015 economic forecast calling for 2.7 per cent growth in Hamilton this year.

That places the city fourth — behind Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax, which are all expected to grow by 3.1 per cent.

Actual growth for 2014 was 1.7 per cent.

“Hamilton’s ongoing recovery is encouraging, especially in the city’s manufacturing sector where we are expecting activity to rise by 1.8 per cent this year and another 2.3 per cent in 2016,” said Alan Arcand, associate director at the Centre for Municipal Studies.

The report cites positive effects from the weakening Canadian dollar and the strengthening U.S. economy.

“With Hamilton sharing the hosting duties for the upcoming Pan Am/Parapan Am Games with Toronto, growth in the local economy’s tourism-related industries is also expected to be healthy,” said Arcand.

The Conference Board predicts overall growth for Hamilton of 2.6 per cent in 2016, which would put it third in the country.

The board predicts strong growth for 2015 in transportation and warehousing and non-residential construction, including projects at McMaster University, the new James Street North GO Station and the Hamilton harbour cleanup.

Among 13 census metropolitan areas, the board forecasts negative growth for only Edmonton and Calgary.

Hamilton vs. Toronto

Population: 510,000 vs. 2.6 million

Class A residential rental rate per square foot: $15 vs. $54

Percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree: 22 vs. 33

Unemployment rate: 5.6 vs. 7.6 (per cent)

Median home value: $269,000 vs. $439,000

Average commute time: 27 minutes vs. 33 min.

Source: Colliers International, Cities of Opportunity and Statistics Canada

Hot housing

A hot sellers’ housing market continues to drive up prices in the Hamilton area.

According to Teranet-National Bank home price index numbers released this week, the Hamilton area saw the highest year-over-year April home price increase among major urban areas in Canada at 7.59 per cent. That edged out Toronto’s 7.28 per cent.

But the numbers also indicate prices in Hamilton — which includes Burlington and Grimsby — have backed off half a per cent since a peak in December.

The home price index tracks homes that have sold at least twice since June 2005. Since that time, prices of those homes in Hamilton have increased about 57 per cent.

The average for the country’s top 11 urban areas is more than 68 per cent, led by gains of well over 80 per cent in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

Fellfab is fabulous, says Boeing of Hamilton firm

Photo of Eric Taylor, President of FellfabThe Hamilton company that clothed the space shuttle’s robotic arm has found its way into another rarefied orbit.

Fellfab Limited is one of 15 companies named Supplier of the Year by American aircraft maker Boeing Inc. — a global giant with a $62-billion-a-year supply chain of more than 13,000 companies from 47 countries.

For Fellfab president Eric Taylor the honour is a clear sign there’s life in Hamilton manufacturing. The company is located on Barton Street East near Kenora Avenue.

“We’ve done quite well,” Taylor said of the award presented in mid-April. “We fly a little bit under the radar, but we’re not only still here we’re adding employment and expanding.”

Founded 63 years ago, there’s very little Fellfab hasn’t made over the decades for its customers in the aviation, medical, telecommunication, military, industrial, aerospace and transportation sectors. Products include all the curtains in any new Boeing aircraft, cushions for passenger trains, the first-class seats for Delta Air Lines travellers, knapsacks, sleeping bags and body bags for the Canadian army and, of course, the famous fabric clothing for the space shuttle’s robotic arm.

“We started by making tarps for trucks but now we focus on engineered textile solutions and value-added products,” Taylor said.

Fellfab is still owned by the Fell family.

The 10-year contract for Boeing’s curtains is a major focus for the company today, Taylor said, and it’s a demanding piece of business — Fellfab’s award was partly for delivering on-time, defect-free products more than 99 per cent of the time for 12 months.

That’s a level only 460 of Boeing’s suppliers around the world have managed to meet.

“Hitting that level is almost an entry point with these guys, it’s certainly not a coasting point,” he said. “Getting an honour like this is a little humbling, a little overwhelming and really causes you to reflect on the good work your people are doing.”

The company has more than 100 employees.

As with many manufacturers, Taylor said the nature of their business has changed over the years. It used to be that the Canadian military would present a supplier with detailed plans and drawings for the products it wanted. Now Fellfab is presented with a need and left to create an answer.

Meeting that style of business has required some hefty investments — last year alone the company spent $300,000 on new 3D software and a development group.

That kind of spending, he said is necessary to keep the company’s North American production processes at top efficiency.

“The pressure on us are huge in the international markets,” Taylor said. “We are very process-oriented because on some projects we’re competing against companies that pay $2 an hour or have people sewing at home.”

Boeing’s 2015 suppliers of the year include 11 American companies and one university and single companies from each of Sweden, Japan and Canada.

In a news release announcing the honours, Boeing president Dennis Muilenburg said the quality of its supply chain was one of the reasons the company was able to earn a record $90.8 billion in 2014 revenue.

“Strong partnerships with our suppliers can make a difference between winning and losing customers and competitions, or determining the success of a development program,” he said. “The best suppliers — like the ones recognized with the Supplier of the Year Award — operate as partners and differentiate themselves, and Boeing, from the competition through close collaboration and a relentless commitment to first-time quality, on-time delivery and affordability.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

Hurray for Hamilton!

Fraunhofer Health Sciences FacilityHamilton and Burlington share a common bay, a common lake, a common transportation system, a common regional economy, and a common sense of great community pride. Although two distinct municipalities, the histories of these two communities are well interwoven, and what is good for one, will undoubtedly have good results for the other.

Over the past several years, Hamilton has experienced a great renaissance that is generating positive results for the entire region. Over the past five years, Hamilton has averaged more than $1 billion in building permit values – with a good ratio of residential to non-residential. The community has welcomed two major investments from Maple Leaf Foods (with one now under the ownership of Groupo Bimbo of Mexico) that totaled more than $500 million, 1,000 new jobs, and approximately one million square feet of new industrial space. In the west end of the city, McMaster Innovation Park continues to grow, with a focus on innovation and the commercialization of research coming out of McMaster University. Also this past year, Fraunhofer based in Germany – Europe’s largest application oriented research organization – and McMaster University created the McMaster-Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM) adding immense prominence to Hamilton-based research on a global scale.

Article courtesy of B City Magazine

Economic results such as these have boosted local employment, and are attracting more positive attention for Hamilton. Hamilton’s economy has been ranked the most diversified in Canada and the fastest growing in Ontario by the Conference Board of Canada, and has been ranked the best place to invest in Canada and Ontario by Site Selection Magazine of Atlanta and the Real Estate Investment Network of Calgary respectively.

Just as Burlington has enjoyed years of positive growth in its downtown core, now  Hamilton is starting to experience a revival of its own. In Hamilton’s downtown core, there are more than 2,000 condominium units either under construction or soon to be under construction with much of the market being comprised of young professionals and empty nesters.

Glen Norton, Manager Urban Renewal for Hamilton’s Economic Development Office says, “It certainly is a great time to invest  in Hamilton, and, more particularly, any of Hamilton’s community downtowns. There’s a real surge of momentum. From the galleries, to the international and artisanal dining experiences, to the chic cafes popping up, our downtowns are becoming not  only about working, but being a great place to live as well.”  Vast improvements that have included four new animation studios from the GTA, two new university projects, major hotels being constructed, and a waterfront that is unrivaled in this region in terms of development opportunities. Coupled with this is the major attention for music and culture that keeps crowds coming to the city, events like the Festival of Friends, the Locke Street Festival, the Dundas Cactus Festival and the annual Supercrawl Music and Art Festival.

Hamilton has experienced one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Ontario over the past several years, and with people working in the city, there has been a greater attraction to Hamilton as a place to live as well. Burlington’s average residential sale price in 2014 was $506,217, but various communities in Hamilton fared just as well or even better (Ancaster was $498,397, Flamborough was $529,048, and Glanbrook was $519,192). In short, Hamilton’s housing market is one of the hottest in Canada.

What does a strengthening economy in Hamilton, mean for Burlington? It means a solid regional economy that provides new investment opportunities for Burlington firms in the areas of collaboration and supply chain management, and new employment opportunities for residents of Burlington. As major economies across the globe are competing  not as individual municipalities, but rather regional economies, the Hamilton-Burlington economy should be viewed as a loose partnership in order to compete with the world. Our two municipal borders share a talent pool, knowledge base, and industry that can provide a supply chain for investments from across the country and world.

For those in Burlington, what is on the horizon for Hamilton that should be of note is the development of Hamilton’s waterfront. Not many Ontario municipalities have a waterfront, which is so development ready, close to major   transportation accesses and a major urban centre. Over the next year, Hamilton will see the James Street North GO terminal open to the public offering more direct Toronto commuting options and increased infrastructure work around the waterfront to better water, wastewater capacity and break walls directly at the waterfront’s shores. All this work is in anticipation of the nearly $500 million in development value and 1,600 new residential units planned for Hamilton’s waterfront.

With so much happening in Hamilton, there are some final points to keep in mind for those in Burlington. “If you haven’t visited in a while, take a look at any of our six community downtowns and 13 BIAs, walk along the waterfront, visit a great restaurant, perhaps find your next real estate investment, but most of all, look past the smoke stacks,” says Norton. “Steel is still a large part of our economic story, but it’s a chapter in a greater narrative. A narrative that focuses on rebirth, new points of interest, new opportunities, and the reclaiming of what we now call the, ‘Ambitious City’.”

Hamilton talks immigration strategy at UN

Photo of Sarah Wayland, senior project lead for Global HamiltonHamilton was the only Canadian city among global metropolises talking about their immigration strategies at a recent meeting hosted in New York City by the United Nations.

The discussion last week included national governments and international and national agencies, along with representatives from New York City, Barcelona and Quito, Ecuador, said Sarah Wayland, the senior project lead for the Global Hamilton initiative. She represented the city at the event.

Global Hamilton is a project within the city’s economic development department that focuses on helping the city attract and support skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants and international students, and on educating the community about why that makes economic sense.

Wayland says as far as she knows, Hamilton’s initiative — established in September 2012 — is unique in Canada.

“The bigger cities like Toronto don’t have to worry about immigrant attraction … but for cities like Hamilton, it’s critical to economic growth.”

She says immigrants are more likely to be business owners who hire others and immigration will play a crucial role as Hamilton tries to reach its 2035 growth targets of 660,000 residents and 300,000 jobs.

“Immigrants go where the opportunities are. If they’re not coming to Hamilton, they either don’t know of the opportunities here or there are no opportunities.”

Wayland says immigration used to be seen as a competition between nations, but that’s shifting to a fight for immigrants among cities. Just over 91 per cent of immigrants to Canada live in cities of more than 100,000 people, compared to 66 per cent of Canada’s overall population.

But cities have little say in immigration policy.

“Immigration is under the jurisdiction of national governments but cities are on the front lines in receiving immigrants who need to find places to live, schools for their kids and employment.”

That’s part of the reason Wayland was invited to the United Nations gathering to share Hamilton’s story.

“The intergovernmental and international agencies have the big picture, but they wanted to hear what’s going on, on the ground,” she said.

Wayland also met with the Canadian Consulate General in New York and the Canadian Mission to the United Nations, both of whom meet with international investors interested in Canada.

The forum was hosted by the World Bank, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the Joint Migration and Development Initiative under the auspices of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Migration.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

City staff to sell west harbour at global conference

Photo of Hamilton Harbour AreaHamilton’s west harbour redevelopment is among huge global projects being highlighted by the biggest real estate conference in the world.

“We’d like to have people lined up chomping at the bit to put a proposal forward” when the lands go on sale in late 2015 or early 2016, said Chris Phillips, the point person on the waterfront redevelopment strategy.

Hamilton pitched to the organizers of the MIPIM (Le marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier) to have the waterfront featured on its blog and newsletter leading into the show March 10-13 in Cannes, France.

“The fact we were selected from a whole bunch from around the world says a lot about the opportunity this presents,” said Phillips.

Hamilton’s waterfront was among seven North American projects highlighted by MIPIM, along with an arena district in Edmonton, a riverfront office tower in Chicago, an eco-campus in Montreal and a waterfront community at the mouth of Toronto’s Don River.

MIPIM features 2,225 exhibitors, 300 speakers and 150 keynotes, panels and workshops. Last year, it attracted more than 21,000 people, including 1,460 investors and 1,126 developers.

Phillips, Hamilton senior business development consultant Jennifer Patterson and McMaster Innovation Park CEO Zach Douglas will be part of a broader Ontario consortium of 10 cities that also includes Toronto, Ottawa, Brampton, Guelph and London.

MIPIM will feature a Canadian pavilion for the first time.

Other city mayors will be attending, but Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger will be staying home due to the lead-up to the Junos.

Hamilton is a founding member of the Real Estate Investment Alliance, a partnership between the Economic Development Council of Ontario and the province.

“Alliances help us leverage opportunities with less money. We have to be strategic about tackling international-scale promotion,” said Patterson.

“We’ll be competing with the biggest cities in the world and we need a bigger presence to make an impact.”

Hamilton’s team will also be promoting the Red Hill Business Park, the airport employment district, MIP and the downtown.

Deals do get signed at the conference, though Phillips says the goal with this first trip is to get on the radar screen of investors.

“We’ll be looking to establishing contacts with international firms.”

Phillips went to the trade show with some provincial representatives last year to see if Hamilton should take part in 2015.

He held several meetings last year to talk about the city’s waterfront redevelopment plans, which include housing, recreation, retail, office and hospitality amenities.

“I was blown away by the size, scale and scope of the conference and how cities pitched their development opportunities.”

Phillips says Hamilton’s west harbour is among the few urban waterfronts that remain undeveloped in Ontario. And its proximity to the downtown and well-established residential neighbourhoods are huge selling features, he said.

The city’s capital budget calls for a $60-million investment over four years to get the lands development ready by 2018. That would include shoreline work, roadways, water and sewer services.

Estimates for the redevelopment of Hamilton’s waterfront from Piers 5 to 8 and the implementation of the city’s west harbour recreation master plan are about $130 million over the next decade.

Article courtesy of  Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

‘It’s our time to seize the moment:’ Twitter exec

Photo of Kirstine Stewart, VP North America TwitterThe kind of leadership required today is perfectly suited to the business styles of women, a Twitter executive told a group of Hamilton entrepreneurs Wednesday.

The ability to multi-task, distil multiple points of view, listen and share are critical in a new corporate environment driven largely by technology, said Kirstine Stewart, vice-president of North American partnerships at the social media giant.

“Leadership is changing but the good news is that it’s kind of how we’ve always been,” Stewart told more than 200 people gathered for the fourth annual Success in the City event that celebrates International Women’s Day.

Great leaders can articulate a vision and motivate a team to achieve it, said Stewart, who will release a book about leadership in the fall.

They surround themselves with smart people who are empowered and then they get out of the way. They collaborate and share, even with those who might be perceived as competitors.

Though there is frustration with the pace at which women are grabbing top jobs in business and government, Stewart said “it’s our time to seize the moment.”

Stewart says she had one of the most important jobs in Canadian media as the head of English-language services for the CBC. She was responsible for news, sports, TV, radio and online and about 5,000 people reported to her.

“I left it for something called Twitter,” she said.

Twitter is a disruptive technology creating limitless opportunities, said Stewart, 46, who was named No. 15 on Maclean’s power list in 2014.

There are about 500 million tweets sent daily and 288 million monthly active users, according to the San Francisco-based company.

Twitter requires businesses, media, governments to be open to two-way conversations in a way never seen before, says Stewart.

It gives a voice to everyone with a handle and access to the Internet.

“That kind of interactivity has changed all businesses. You can’t rule the way you used to.”

She urged her audience to use social media as a means to connect with others, engage in conversations about business and be transparent about who they are and what they can offer.

“In the old world, it was about controlling the message. Business owners would insist that, ‘I will dictate my brand.’ It doesn’t work that way any more. Now it’s about transparency.”

She said today’s businesses have to truly understand what their customers are about and what they need.

“When someone understands who you are, you will go back to them again and again … When you truly connect, people will show their loyalty.”

She urged even those wary of using social media to embrace its possibilities, even if that means getting their kids to show them how.

Success in the City is hosted by the city’s Small Business Enterprise Centre. The event included a panel of local business owners, a trade show and a keynote by Hamilton-based professional speaker Rosita Hall.

She urged her audience to embrace and showcase their talents and to not be afraid to seek help when it’s needed.

“Life is not a solo act. You must connect with others,” she said.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.

Hamilton’s Canmet gets new research steel-rolling mill

Photo of the Canmet Material LabMaterials research at the CanmetMaterial lab at the McMaster Innovation Park got a major boost Thursday with the unveiling of a new state-of-the-art rolling mill.

Natural Resources Canada’s new equipment, according to a news release, includes “features not available in any research laboratory in the world. The new mill, designed and built as a research mill and tailored to the Canmet facility, will be used to develop the latest generation of ultra-high-strength and ductility steels for automobile bodies and also support the improvement of processing capabilities for new high-strength linepipe grades.”

The equipment “will provide significant benefits to both the pipeline and car manufacturing industries and will draw innovation projects into Canada to support the future role of Canadian steel and light metals producers.”

Article courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator.

1,000 jobs planned for ArcelorMittal over three years

Phot of ArcelorMittal Dofasco SiteArcelorMittal Dofasco plans to hire 1,000 workers over the next three years to replace retiring baby boomers.

For Tony Valeri, the company’s vice-president of public affairs, that alone is proof there’s a future for the steel industry in Hamilton.

That’s in addition to more than $250 million invested over the past five years in new technology and equipment.

Valeri was one of three industry players who told the Canadian Club of Hamilton on Wednesday that despite its troubles, the business that made Hamilton famous will thrive in the future.

“I think there’s a very bright future for ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Hamilton,” he said. “Steel continues to evolve and because of that it will continue to be part of Hamilton.”

Many have worried about the future of the industry that once employed more than 30,000 workers in the city.

The worry has been fed by a steady erosion of jobs that now sees employment in Hamilton at barely 6,000 (ArcelorMittal Dofasco now has about 5,400 workers and U.S. Steel Canada about 2,300, including 600 in Hamilton). In addition, the former Stelco is under creditor protection for the second time in 10 years.

That’s on top of wild swings in currency exchange rates, trouble finding skilled workers and competition from countries such as China where workers are paid $35 a day, including food and housing. That’s about what a Canadian steelworker earns in an hour.

Adding to concern for the future is the lingering fear the former Stelco plant here will be closed as part of the U.S. Steel Canada’s financial restructuring now winding its way through the courts.

While at least one of the two giants of the Canadian industry is adamant it has a future in Hamilton, the businesspeople who shared Wednesday’s platform with Valeri say there’s more to the business than simply making the metal itself.

Walter Krancevic, sales and marketing vice-president at CareGo, said his company started as a firm that simply moved steel from trains to trucks for shipment and occasionally stored coils for brief periods. Today, its success springs from marketing a technology around the world that allows companies to do that work with unheard of efficiency — its own warehouse in Hamilton operates with a single employee to watch over the computers that do all the work.

Called Telia, the technology all but eliminates human workers from the business of storing and locating steel coils while offering huge operating savings.

“We’ve found a way to put more steel in less space,” he said. “Our distribution business is alive and well and working, but we think our future is in Telia.”

Also alive and thriving, is the business of bashing steel into the shapes required by users such as auto assemblers and parts makers and construction companies.

Walter Koppelaar, president of Walters Group, sells structural steel across North America and sees a good future despite challenges in the business.

“The skill set we’ve developed in the steel industry is what made Hamilton famous,” he said. “We see a bright future because of that, we have deep roots in Hamilton and we’re not leaving.”

All three panellists agreed one of the largest challenges facing the industry today comes from China — a giant with half of the world’s steel production capacity and a government willing to subsidize the industry as a tool of economic policy.

“A steel mill in China is an instrument of the government and isn’t required to make a profit,” Krancevic said, while Valeri added those inefficient plants are kept operating by subsidies from the state.

“The Asian countries look at steel as the basis of their industrial economies,” he said. “We welcome the competition, but it’s difficult to compete with the treasury of a state.”

In that environment, he said, the path to success is for the companies to focus on the things they can control — things like their own efficiency, relationships with their customers and the skill of their workers.

“Our opportunities are in continuous improvement, in uncovering and extracting value from what we do,” he said.

Koppelaar added skills training has become a critical piece of the survival equation.

“The people we’re looking for in the future are going to be very highly skilled, a college education will be needed for most,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to differentiate ourselves from our Asian counterparts.”

The panellists also offered a shopping list of government aid they say will help the industry: export assistance, dropping the idea of a carbon tax, using the North American Free Trade Agreement to oppose the “Buy American” program in the United States, stabilizing exchange rates and the price of oil and greater support on the development side of research and development — that’s the part that turns ideas into actual products and cash flow.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator.

‘We print imagination’ at Mohawk’s 3D lab

Photo of Ross Mogridge, chief student technologist in the engineering technology department at Mohawk CollegeRob Gerritson is fond of saying you can’t drill a curved hole but you can easily print one.

That’s how he tries to simply explain why additive manufacturing, often called 3D printing, is so important.

Gerritson is the director of Mohawk College’s new Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre, which houses about $2 million worth of sophisticated printers that create metal and plastic objects.

Where traditional manufacturing techniques, such as machining, casting and milling remove material to form a desired part, additive manufacturing builds an object up in microscopic layers of powdered plastic or metal.

“We will see all new parts and new designs for existing parts,” said Gerritson. “This will be a driver of innovation … There are many opportunities that have yet to be explored.”

The technology is revolutionizing everything from aerospace components to toys and medical implants, to bicycle parts.

Now, the only limit on what can be produced is human imagination, says first-year student Ross Mogridge, who is chief student technician at the lab.

“We print imagination. I can physically make anything that I can imagine.”

Within an oxygen-free chamber roughly the size of an oven, a laser reading a digital image deposits hair-thin layers of powdered metal or plastic the way a paintbrush layers paint. Heat fuses the newly deposited powder with the existing layers.

This offers two advantages: there is little waste and components can be built as whole units rather than individual parts needing assembly. This saves labour but also eliminates failure points where screws, bolts or welds hold parts together.

The biggest benefit is that the additive allows shapes to be formed, like curved holes, which could never be formed any other way.

The machine can print hundreds of the same part or dozens of different ones at the same time.

The drawbacks are that current 3D printers are still relatively slow compared to other methods, a limited number of materials are available and the technique isn’t suitable for producing parts in large volumes.

Dundas company investing $11.5m in 3D printing


New Hamilton business group focused on 3D printing


The lab has plenty of prototypes that show what their machines can do: a metal chess piece with a tiny, curved staircase inside; models of turbine blades that have a curved channel etched out; a bike sprocket printed as one unit; even a plastic ukulele.

Most impressive of all is a rounded hip implant with porous metal that allows a bone to grow and fuse into it.

“That kind of porosity in the metal would be impossible to make any other way,” said engineering dean Tony Thoma.

Visibly proud of this lab, he says many colleges and universities have 3D printing labs that aren’t as advanced as this one. There are no labs in Ontario with metal printers and only three across the country.

“We’re here to expose this technology to industry,” said Thoma.

Companies can work with the lab to test new products or to produce manufactured-quality products.

The Mohawk lab, operational for a few months now, has 43 core clients. These include aviation giants and startups.

The lab is a great complement to materials research at McMaster University and the federal CANMET lab, says Thoma. That makes Hamilton poised to be a centre of excellence.

Burloak Technologies, which moved to Dundas last year from Burlington, cited Mohawk’s lab among the primary reasons for its relocation. The company made a multimillion-dollar investment in metal printers.

The lab, opened officially in January, received a total of $720,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund, along with industry partners.

For Mogridge, 28, his biggest challenge will be deciding which job offer to accept when he graduates. He says companies are struggling to find the skilled technicians who can run the machines because they are so new.

“It’s my passion. I love the industry. I see the future there. What we do in the lab is what most people would call sci-fi.”

Mohawk’s lab is already being credited with keeping one new medical business from moving out of Ontario.

Stemmed Implant Technology has developed a less invasive but stronger way to affix dental implants to bones. The technology is the invention of a Niagara Falls dentist. It’s screwless and more intricate than existing implants, says Chris Ostrovski, the company’s CEO.

Traditional machining can’t reproduce the design. Additive manufacturing is the only answer.

The implants will reduce a patient’s time in the dentist’s chair and cut the number of necessary visits, says Ostrovski.

But the company’s founders felt they would have to head down to Kentucky to get help with research and developing prototypes. That was before they heard about Mohawk’s new lab.

“The machines that Mohawk has are probably the most advanced that are available.”

It’s there that they produced their first lot of dental implants, which can now be used in clinical studies at McMaster.

“We just about fell over when we saw the first prototypes,” said Ostrovski.

“The first sample came out exactly as we designed and envisioned. Mohawk has the expertise, the machinery and the students that we can help to train and then eventually employ them … This is a dream for a little company like ours.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

Young ‘ex-pats’ worth luring back home, conference attendees told

Municipal leaders should stop trying to bait or bribe youth who want to leave town, says a University of Waterloo researcher.

Let them go because if you can lure them back, they will be more successful, Michelle Madden urged attendees at the Economic Developers Council of Ontario annual conference Thursday.

“The best approach is to graciously let them leave and then work on attracting them back,” said Madden, outreach manager in the university’s economic development program.

She said research shows those who return to their hometown after being educated or getting work experience elsewhere own a higher percentage of businesses and employ more people than those who stayed. Those who work for others achieved higher levels of success, too.

“So embrace youth out-migration,” said Madden. “If you bring ex-pats home, it will be good for your community.”

She highlighted efforts by Chatham-Kent and Toronto to bring young ex-pats home that included directly linking them with employers, and videos highlighting the stories of those who returned.

Andre Robichaud says he vowed never to return to his hometown of Kapuskasing when he left at 18. Now he’s an economic development officer there, working to bring young people back to the northern Ontario town.

Hits to the forestry- and mining-based economy of the town of 8,000 meant youth fled at the highest rate ever through the 1990s and into the 2000s. The town developed a strategy in 2006 that focused on Kapuskasing’s quality of life and cost of living.

This is a town where the average commute is 8.5 minutes and a “very nice house” can be bought for $97,000, says Robichaud.

Town staff connected with local employers, built a database of youth, issued newsletter highlighting local opportunities and even brought Kapuskasing natives back for weekends of wining and dining.

Michael Marini, director of marketing for Hamilton’s economic development department, says this city is already well positioned as a place of opportunity for young people. That is now translating into new businesses and real estate investment.

“We’re now in a very exciting phase of activity,” he said.

The theme of youth carried into the last keynote address of the conference, held at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Marketing expert and youth culture researcher Max Valiquette said the most powerful youth (18- to 34-year-old) cohort ever is defined by the constant connectivity of social networking, the postponement of adult milestones, such as post-secondary graduation, marriage and children, and a cultural fixation on the style and behaviour of youth.

He said workplaces have to engage this group through optimism and encouraging their ideas and entrepreneurial spirits. But setting clear workplace expectations is crucial.

“This group may come across as fundamentally disrespectful. They aren’t. They’ve just had a huge voice throughout their life.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.




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