Originally Posted by Jon Dalton
major corporations or sports teams won't locate here, but maybe one could start here?
If Hamilton is a successful city, it will attract a sports team, not the other way around. Toronto, for example, is talking about getting a second hockey team. That has nothing to do with "fairness" and everything to do with the fact that the Toronto economy is arguably big and dynamic enough to support two teams.
I think Hamilton needs to play to its strengths: a dense downtown; lots of available industrial/urban land; good intra- and inter-regional transportation access (via the port, rail connections and highways); two post-secondary institutions; a scrappy creative arts community; and a large population that currently works elsewhere.
We also need to chase future performance, not copy past performers. That means looking down the road at what the larger economic framework will look like. It looks very much as though energy markets from here on out will be characterized by extreme volatility trending toward ever-higher prices.
That sounds like a big problem, but successful innovators turn crisis into opportunity. I think we have a guide for revitalization and growth in Richard Gilbert's report Hamilton: The Electric City
, in which he argues that Hamilton should make energy conservation and production it's economic Plan A.
Remember: about 90% of the buildings we will occupy in 20 years already exist. We will need to become experts in making those buildings a lot more energy-efficient, and that means a pretty intensely labour-intensive retrofit effort.
It provides economic opportunities right up and down the line: pure research, applied research, market innovation, and lots of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled work to install and retrofit energy systems. Since other cities will need what we're selling, that also means expanded opportunities for manufacturing and transporting energy systems, plus a net influx of income into the city. It also spurs demand for both industrial and office space, which will help to repopulate our under-used lower city.
We will be very well-positioned for new regional, national and international global warming frameworks, which are coming sooner or later; not to mention well-positioned in the case of a provincial or national carbon tax, which I also believe is inevitable sooner or later. We would also, naturally, be more insulated from energy price volatility.
As far as I know, no other North American city is really delving into this market: it's just sporadic businesses here and there, with most of the action coming from Europe. If Hamilton starts now and builds on the foundation of the city's existing planning framework - Vision 2020, GRIDS, The Electric City, Downtown Master Plan, McMaster Innovation Park, etc. - we could quickly establish ourselves as national and even continental leaders.
That, in turn, will attract businesses, entrepreneurs, inventors and investors to build the critical mass that's required to establish a self-reinforcing, growing industry. That will lead to new municipal tax assessments, more employment opportunities, and a more vibrant city, which in turn will attract still more creative people.
There's one more facet. Hamilton, like most North American cities, is facing a demographic one-two punch: aging Boomers are giving up their suburban houses and moving back downtown to take advantage of walkable neighbourhoods, nearby amenities and quick access to medical facilities; and at the same time, young university-educated people are abandoning the suburban dream and looking to move into cities.
Those two groups represent the richest and most creative sectors of our population, respectively. If Hamilton can accommodate them with a dense, vibrant, growing downtown, we can attain both. If we do nothing, those two demographics will find accommodations elsewhere, taking their money and their enthusiasm with them.