Hamilton Comes A-Calling To Highlight What It Has To Offer
Hamilton dropped into Toronto last week with a message of cooperation, future investment and fun.
“We wanted something to get people’s attention, something a little different,” Hamilton Economic Development Director Glen Norton said on the opening day of The Hamilton Consulate, a two-day promotional pop-up at the Burroughes building on Queen Street West.
The Hamilton Consulate included a series of seminars, music, food, and even a fashion show, all aimed at showcasing the changing city to the west.
“It’s a diplomatic exchange,” Norton said. “Its aims are to increase awareness, collaboration and future investment.”
What it was not was an attempt to take jobs and business from Toronto, he said.
“We’re not trying to steal business from Toronto, but augment it. It doesn’t have to be either Toronto or Hamilton. We’re not isolated islands. We’re one region. We want to work with Toronto while educating people on the changes going on in Hamilton,” Norton said.
Recent changes have made Hamilton an attractive destination for Toronto residents and Canadian business. In the past 10 years, the so-called Steeltown has reinvented itself for the current times.
Hamilton still makes steel, but also has a thriving biomedical and tech sector, and a fashion and film industry. And much like Toronto, its commercial and residential real estate has taken off in recent years.
A home in Hamilton averages around $550K, far cheaper than the $900K-plus home price tag in Toronto. Hamilton also sports a 12% downtown office vacancy rate, which could provide some space to grow for companies limited by Toronto's tight market.
As for industrial land in Hamilton, it can go for one-third of what it costs in the GTA.
Commercial and residential real estate sales in Hamilton in 2016 were a record $8.3B, a 13% jump from the previous year.
In many ways, Hamilton is well-suited for this renaissance. The downtown’s mix of old and new buildings has found a fan in millennials, who now make up 28% of the Hamilton population. A splashy new city promo video unveiled at the consulate targeted that very demographic.
“For the first time, millennials outnumber the baby boomers in Hamilton,” Norton said.
Of course, too much success too fast can lead to its own problems. At a seminar dubbed ‘From The Ground Up,’ Hamilton business development manager Norm Schleehahn said he had mixed feelings about Hamilton’s current low industrial vacancy rate of 1.9%.
“I feel pride. But then again it gives me a sense of fear. Buildings go on the market and they go just like that. But then I think it’s an opportunity — a huge opportunity for speculative building in Hamilton.”
Among the prime real estate areas showcased at the consulate were Hamilton’s waterfront, along the as-yet-to-be-built $1B, 14-kilometre LRT line that will cut through the downtown core, and 1,300 acres of unserviced, newly designated industrial land near the airport.
“That’s the future growth for the city,” Schleehahn said. “It’s former agricultural land and it’s quite rural. But it’s quite an opportunity right now and there’s definitely interest. All it takes is someone to be the first to stick their toe in the water.”