Frank Salvatore
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Hamilton has turned the corner, says Bratina

March 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BRATINA Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina believes Hamilton’s defining characteristic is now one of ‘opportunity’.

John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator
Mayor Bob Bratina believes Hamilton’s defining characteristic is now one of “opportunity.”  He painted a picture at the Chamber of Commerce annual mayor’s breakfast Monday of a Hamilton overflowing with promise and prosperity.
“The economy of Hamilton has not only survived the downturn of 2008, but has actually grown to a point that many find hard to believe,” he asserted.  The Hamilton that people used to hear about — a city of declining manufacturing, no future in steel, an abysmal downtown, and poverty and unemployment is disappearing, he suggested.  The city has crossed a threshold and is now fully engaged in rebuilding, he declared.
Among the signs he pointed to:
• Hamilton named second best Canadian city for corporate investment.
• City among top 100 of largest metropolitan economic performers.
• Hamilton is ranked the top city in Ontario and third in Canada in which to invest.
• Hamilton issued more commercial building permits than Mississauga in past three years.
• Port of Hamilton shipping generates $5.9 billion in economic activity.
• 320 new jobs created downtown in 2011.
• Hamilton Health Sciences ranked seventh best research hospital in the world.
• McMaster University ranked 16th among world’s top health universities.
Bratina vaunted the city’s 21 per cent business growth in 2011, and an industrial vacancy rate down to 3.4 per cent. He delighted in new downtown investments and buildings, and north end industrial developments. Employment from 2001 to 2006 rose 6 per cent, while Hamilton’s population grew only 2.9 per cent, he added.  He boasted that Hamilton beat out 24 other Canadian cities for the new $400-million Maple Leaf plant, with close to 700 jobs, and said activity is not slowing down.
“There’s another $1.6 million of new, non-residential construction already committed for 2012.”  He also asserted U.S. Steel workers are preparing the dormant blast furnace to reopen in the second quarter.  But U.S. Steel spokesperson Trevor Harris said the company’s position hasn’t changed since the January conference call with chairman John Surma – the Hamilton blast furnace will not reopen during the first quarter of this year and any decision to open it after that depends on market demand.
As for “our much maligned core area,” Bratina cheered the drop in downtown vacancy rates to 12 per cent from 20 in the past five years. An indicator of the downtown’s vitality is that it’s running out of parking space and there are waiting lists for monthly municipal parking, he said.  New star businesses include the CBC digital news service outlet, the Chuck Gammage Animation studio and the Staybridge Hotel, he said. New projects for 2012, such as building the McMaster Health Centre and, possibly, a grocery store (the city has committed to an incentive to attract a grocery store) are also changing the downtown’s image, he said.
The lower office vacancy rate &ldquoes a long way to help dispel some of the myths about the downtown, such as ‘nothing but boarded up buildings.’
“We’ve come a long way … things have changed.”

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Frank Salvatore