Discovering Hamilton: parallels to Buffalo

You’d be surprised to learn just how similar Hamilton in Canada is to Buffalo.

A few months ago I was invited to participate in a panel discussion with the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce in Niagara on Lake Ontario. During my visit, I spent time with their chamber’s new incoming CEO, Mishka Balsom.

I also had the opportunity to meet Keanin Loomis, the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

The three of us, all relatively new in our positions, talked about the opportunities that exist to unite the business communities on both sides of the border. We also talked about our respective markets.

hamiltonc hamberI was surprised to learn just how much Hamilton has in common with Buffalo.

Check out this quote from The Hamilton Spectator “Hamilton is already taking great strides forward. Among them: redevelopment along our waterfront, the completion of a world-class stadium, seemingly endless new construction downtown, and, most recently, the injection of $1-billion in provincial funding for an LRT system. Add to the mix a highly-trained workforce and an engaged and growing population infusing the city with enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial spirit. We must build on the momentum.”

Does this sound like Buffalo or what?!

At Keanin’s invitation, I took a road trip to Hamilton to spend the day touring and meeting with some important players on the economic development front in Canada.

The timing of our visit could not have been better, as I was extensively quoted in stories about Buffalo’s development in the Hamilton Spectator the same week.

Our tour began with a walk across downtown where I got to see Nations Fresh Foods, a downtown grocery store in the heart of Hamilton.

Naysayers doubted it would be successful, but since its opening it has enjoyed an incredibly robust business. I couldn’t help but think about the mayor’s vision for a grocery store in downtown Buffalo.

Nations Fresh foodsAfter touring the store, we went to the 23rd floor of a high-rise that gave us a bird’s eye view of Hamilton’s development.

Hamilton is the busiest port in all of Canada and, like Buffalo, has an industrial past that includes steel production.

They too are in the process of transforming their economy, and it was great to talk to Keanin about the chamber’s efforts to encourage smart growth development and the development of “complete streets.”

It almost started to feel as if Hamilton and Buffalo are “twins separated by birth.”

He gave us a driving tour around the great downtown neighborhoods of Hamilton where we saw some magnificent homes and beautiful neighborhoods.

A highlight of the trip was meeting with the city of Hamilton economic development department. They shared with us their exciting plans to take advantage of the Pan Am games.

In fact, there some great opportunities for Buffalo companies to take a firsthand look of what’s happening in Hamilton during the month of July.

Hamilton View 1

bird’s eye view of Hamilton

I also met Matthew Green, a Councilor from ward 3 (similar to a Buffalo common council member.)

Green is the first non-incumbent to take a seat in quite some years. He’s young, energetic, and understands the opportunity we have to collaborate and to compete as a region in the global economy.

The entire experience reminded me of just how irrelevant the river is.

We are a part of a global mega region and we need to build bridges (not just the brick and mortar kind) to take advantage of it.

I am excited to have counter parts in Hamilton and Greater Niagara that understand the opportunities that exist for mutual collaboration. Stay tuned!

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