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5 year review highlights Hamilton’s economic success; COVID-19 recovery the focus going forward

Hamilton's director of economic development says most of the city's growth targets were achieved from 2016-2020. Norm Schleehahn stresses that pandemic recovery will be a focus as he develops a new, 5 year plan. Don Mitchell / Global News

As the city continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says job creation is “critical” to ensuring that Hamilton is a great community and “not a bedroom community to Toronto.”

Eisenberger is praising the economic development department, after a report was presented to city councillors, showing that the city has attracted seven million square feet of industrial and commercial space over the past five years.

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A presentation to the general issues committee, and approved by Hamilton City Council on Wednesday, says that includes the attraction of new companies like Amazon and Corbec Steel, as well as the expansion of existing employers.

Eisenberger adds that growth within a variety of sectors, from manufacturing to agriculture, ensures that the city is “independent” and “well-grounded.”

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The report shows a $65.4 million decrease in tax assessment on vacant and underutilized Stelco lands as the biggest economic setback since 2016.┬áThe mayor is still hopeful that “whack in the head” will be resolved on appeal.

He describes the land value and employment opportunities as “significant.”

Looking to the future, a survey was launched on Tuesday to understand the needs of Hamilton-based businesses over the next year, and to quantify the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of Economic Development Norm Schleehahn says the survey has 22 questions and will “shape” programs and initiatives to assist and support businesses in the community, while identifying local labour force trends and opportunities.

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The findings will also be used in the creation of Hamilton’s 2021-2025 Economic Development Action Plan, which Schleehahn expects to present to city councillors this spring and which he predicts will focus on “recovery actions.”

Schleehahn adds that recovery is likely to focus on “the smaller businesses, the on-street retail, personal services, hospitality and tourism, a lot of those industries that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.”

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