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LOOKING BACK

As part of hamilton's urban renewal, workers Make way for the future Lloyd D. Jackson Square. Circa 1969. in the background is the old Dominion Bank, now the hamilton convention centre, at the corner of King St. W. and Macnab.

If you build it...

Steeltown is fast becoming Construction Junction
By Marc Skulnick

Don't look now, but it appears the city of Hamilton is poised to surpass the record numbers it posted in 2010.

At the recent 11th Annual Commercial Summit held at the Burlington Golf & Country Club, Neil Everson, Director of Hamilton's Economic Development and Real Estate Division, bandied about some impressive statistics. To say that Hamilton is booming would be an understatement, with the early numbers pointing to another record-setting year. One telling stat Everson cited is the "diversity index," which the Conference Board of Canada uses to measure how varied a city's economy is. The scale ranges from 1.0 (highly diverse) down to 0.0 (i.e., a one-industry town). Ottawa came in at 0.35; Calgary, the oil and gas capital of Canada, garnered a 0.81 result and Toronto scored 0.88. Hamilton, though, topped them all with a 0.92 rating.

However, the truly eye-opening number presented by Everson was the total value of building permits is sued in Q1, which he noted as one of the best barometers of how the local economy is growing. While the previous Q1 high-water mark of just over $196 million in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional building permits was established in 2010, first-quarter numbers in 2012 have sailed past those totals, with more than $271 million in permits issued, putting the city on pace to surpass the $1-billion mark for the second time in three years.

While not a record-setter, 2011 was nothing to sneeze at either: $731 million in building permits, a further reduction in the downtown vacancy rate (12%, down from 15% in 2009) and, equally encouraging, an unemployment rate of 6.3%—far below the national average.

Just as the future appeared exciting a half-century ago, when downtown Hamilton was experiencing a major urban renewal, so too does the horizon look pretty bright today for the former Steeltown.



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