Hamilton Economic Development

Teaming up on Pan Am playbook

Hamilton and Niagara work together on an investment strategy

While athletes are here trying to reach the podium in the Pan Am Games, an economic development venture between Hamilton and Niagara is working to score a sports analytics consortium for the region.

The two municipalities have joined forces to create what they’ve called the Americas Investment Playbook. It lays out a series of tours and networking events meant to capitalize on the presence of diplomats, team delegates and sponsors from Pan Am countries in Hamilton for soccer, St. Catharines for rowing and Welland for canoeing and kayaking.

One of the immediate wins being worked on is the development of a partnership between a Brazilian group named Project One and local colleges, universities and innovation centres that will focus on wearable and tracking technologies to create comprehensive sports performance data.

Think trackers embedded in balls or pucks, for instance, or chips in wristbands that can measure rowing strokes.

Harjeet Bajaj, a Hamilton business consultant in charge of the Americas Investment Playbook, says the hope is to be ready to announce a memorandum of understanding between the key players during Pan Am events next month.

“There is a huge opportunity for this region because we have all the pieces of the ecosystem,” he said, citing local amateur, varsity and professional sports teams, academic research and a network of support for startups. “This could become a centre of excellence.”

The playbook also includes tours focused on sectors: manufacturing; food and agriculture; and information, communications, technology and digital media. Events include a Hamilton Day (with a focus on life sciences), a bilateral trade forum and a tour of real estate and development opportunities in Hamilton.

Each tour ends with private box seats at Tim Hortons Field for a soccer game.

There will be an international trade and investment centre set up on the 21st floor of 100 King St. W. (the former Stelco Tower) for the duration of the Games.

The playbook is focused on eight nations: the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia. Program developers have considered strength in targeted sectors, political stability and economic growth in deciding on these countries.

“We have high expectations for this in terms of the number of delegates that come through and how much profile, how much media exposure that we get out of this,” said Jennifer Patterson, senior business development officer with Hamilton’s economic development department.

“I really appreciate this initiative because all the teams have sponsors. Some of the athletes have sponsors, too, and they will all be here,” said Kevin Jacobi, co-owner of WP Warehousing in St. Catharines.

His logistics business handles imports from Costa Rica and Brazil and will be highlighted on all the tours.

He praises the focused tours approach because it will allow visitors to maximize their time here and create opportunities for face-to-face networking.

“In business, whether it’s in Canada or internationally, the one on one is critical. You have to do business with people you trust and that you like. All the email in the world doesn’t allow that. This makes the world a bit smaller.”

Jacobi hopes there will be more “alignment” between Hamilton and Niagara in the future.

The Hamilton Port Authority is hosting a water tour of the port for Pan Am visitors and will take part in the international trade centre in a bid to win more international business from established and emerging markets.

“We want to position Hamilton as a really great gateway into the U.S. market,” said port spokesperson Larissa Fenn. “We think there are a lot more opportunities for the agri-food sector.”

A Deloitte study commissioned by the two regions identified Mexico as the preferred option in a field of seven countries for foreign direct investment. Hamilton already has a Mexican multinational in its midst. Grupo Bimbo owns some 90 per cent of Canada Bread.

“We are taking a very aggressive approach to this,” said Bajaj, CEO of Hamilton-based Tiara Canada, who was hired as a project co-ordinator to lead the program.

He said companies that come will be tracked for followup.

Beyond trading products, Bajaj says there are opportunities for businesses and organizations to help peers in some developing Pan Am nations with standards and policies. He said there is strong interest from Costa Rica in our health-care system, for instance.

“We may be able to sell them ideas and best practices that we already have, not just products.”

The program will extend beyond the Games, says Patterson.

“The idea is a legacy. Through the website, we’ll keep that moving forward. It’s the relationships and business development. The template we’ve created for this will be used for similar types of events.”

The $50,000 playbook budget will be split between the two municipalities, with many costs offset by sponsors.

“We have a frugal budget, but we will compete against bigger budget programs. This will not have a low-budget feel,” said Bajaj.

Results will not come overnight, cautioned Michael Marini, co-ordinator of marketing for Hamilton’s economic development division.

“When you look at what’s happening with the Pan Am Games, are you going to immediately have scores of investments that pop up right after the Pan Am Games? I don’t think anyone can say that will definitely happen. This is step one of emerging on the international front.”

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator




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