Kevin’s recent Back to School post inspired me to write this post.
This has been a pet peeve of mine for as long as I can remember. There is this idea that Hamilton is a steel town and this concept is just wrong these days. Hamilton WAS a steel town, even when I was a kid it was a steel town. Dofasco, Stelco and the other smaller steel companies were a major force in the economy, they employed 10’s of thousands of people, they paid very well even for unskilled labourers and they were a goal for many kids coming out of high school.
Those days are long gone but the concept is still around, and I feel it’s being perpetuated by our local government. What needs to happen is the government needs to entice high tech companies to Hamilton, give them incentives to be here.
Hamilton has so many positives, especially in the last few years.
– A thriving arts culture.
– A beautiful bayfront area (that admittedly could still use some development)
– Lower cost housing compared to most cities of our size in the area.
We’re growing and evolving, we’re no longer the grungy steel town (and I do not mean any offense to any of our current or past steel workers, my father spent 40+ years at Dofasco and they provided our family a good living) with nothing to offer the outside world. We’re a great centre for the arts, we still have more green space than most cities our size with beautiful parks and trails to explore. Yet we still have this stigma, this great weight hanging over our heads that we’re somehow a second class city compared to somewhere like Toronto and that makes me sad.
We need to show the world how beautiful a city we are, what we have to offer residents and even more important companies (read high tech companies) that are willing to relocate here. We need to promote ourselves, get the word out there. I read on this blog that the city is planning to redo their website, I really hope they focus on making it more attractive and promoting the city rather than being strictly informational the way it is now. Bright pictures, benefits of the city and information about US is what needs to be front and centre. Yes we need the regular bus routes, garbage pick up and other resident information, but it needs to advertise us to the world first. Our government needs to stop doing things like hoarding domain names (seriously go to www.myhamilton.ca and see what you get. A brilliant domain like that which has so many excellent promotional possibilities is a redirect to our library? Really? Why? Who decided that was a good idea and why are we allowing them to do these things?)
I honestly believe we need to offer financial incentives to these companies too. How about no property taxes for say 10 years for larger tech companies to relocate here. Sounds extreme, we need taxes right? Well yes, of course we do, but what’s more important? What is going to be more beneficial in the long run? A few dollars a year from one building, or the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of high level jobs a company like Microsoft or Adobe could offer by being in our fair city?
I say our government needs to do these things because they have the power to grant the incentives that would entice these companies to relocate here, but it’s up to us to promote our city, it’s up to us to push our government to do these things and make them realize that it’s important for Hamilton to put itself out there as a viable option for these companies. It’s up to us to make them aware of things like Kevin’s impromptu poll’s results showing that more students would stay here given viable job opportunities. We’re 40 miles ish from Toronto, think about that. The commute from Toronto to Hamilton is far better than the reverse, there are tons of tech types living in Toronto and Hamilton has tons of us too. The people resources already exist. It’s time we showed the WORLD what a wonderful city we have, why are we guarding this knowledge like it was some sort of national secret?
Now don’t get me wrong, Hamilton hasn’t been completely stagnant on this front. People like Kevin and things like the StartupDrinks and DemoCamps. Organizations like the Innovation Factory and competitions like Lion’s Lair, these things are all great and I love the fact they exist, but they’re all focused on Start Ups. Which is awesome, Hamilton should be putting ourselves on the map for new innovation too but it doesn’t (shouldn’t) end there. Start ups are great, sometimes they even work and become huge companies, some times they don’t. They’re almost always stuck with lower budgets meaning lower than average wages for the employees, which face it isn’t going to entice a student to stay here. Gee I can make $40k in Hamilton or $110k in Toronto, New York, Vancouver…Â Start ups are great, and they’re a wonderful opportunity for many of us, but they aren’t the only answer. We need the big tech companies.
I’m a Hamiltonian. I say that with pride now (I didn’t always) and it’s time we made the world aware of why we’re proud to live here, what our city has to offer and why large tech companies should consider Hamilton seriously when they’re considering their Canadian offices!
We’re not a steel town anymore, we need to stop acting like one.Â We’re already Hollywood North, why not Silicon Valley North too?