Let’s Build a City That Works for Small Business

I like when people ask me why the Hamilton Chamber spends so much energy on city-building matters.
It’s a question that goes straight to our organization’s enduring purpose as a thought leader, connector and value creator.

Our chamber’s mandate is to help members and the wider community flourish and grow. It’s been this way since our formation in 1845 when Isaac Buchanan and our forefathers joined together to help shape local and regional policies and infrastructure to promote jobs, prosperity and quality of life.

Embedded in our DNA is the belief that we must move with the times, anticipate the future and advocate for measures that have the greatest overall impact on the entire community. Today we look ahead and see Hamilton’s business environment

Today we look ahead and see Hamilton’s business environment changing. One significant trend is the steady emergence of small business as a dominant driver of local employment, tax revenue and innovation.

This aligns with provincial data showing that small businesses make up 98 percent of total businesses and two-thirds of private sector employment in Ontario.

In Hamilton, these are the nimble firms that have come to redefine large swaths of our commercial landscape. And they are asking us to work with them to co-create a more progressive city that is in step with our contemporary knowledge-based, service-oriented economy.

A great example is Relay Coffee Roasters, a local company that is the recipient of our chamber’s 2013 Outstanding Business Achievement Award in the small business category.

Barista Alex McKenzie provides hometown customer service at the Relay Coffee Bar on Concession Street. Photo by Richard Allen

Alongside its manufacturing and distribution operations, Relay runs a coffee bar in the Concession Street neighbourhood on Hamilton Mountain. This is a tightly-knit heritage community that has rebounded thanks in part to an active Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the work of its members, and significant recent investments in municipal infrastructure.

Jason Hofing, the founder of Relay Coffee, says he appreciates our chamber’s ongoing efforts to advance modern city-building fundamentals that have helped his coffee bar thrive. These include the promotion of commercial corridors and complete streets as well as our work with city officials to reduce red tape and eliminate outdated regulations.

Hofing says his coffee bar sales have doubled in the months following the extensive (and disruptive) complete streets redesign of Concession Street. This good news story is timely as we address the concerns of retailers along the light rail transit route in downtown Hamilton. Yet our chamber’s work to support small business extends much further.

This year, for example, we are joining local chambers and boards of trade across Ontario to celebrate Small Business Week, October 16-22. It’s an opportunity to recognize the outstanding contributions of Hamilton’s small business sector. This is a sector that includes high-tech startups, social enterprises, arts organizations, restaurants and specialized manufacturers that are making Hamilton a magnetic destination for talent and investment.

Our job as a local chamber is to call for smart investments in hard and soft ‘quality of place’ infrastructure favoured by 21st-century value creators. In our view, priority investment areas include light rail transit and other modes of sustainable transportation, regional connectivity, innovation networks, arts and culture, and protections for our built

by 21st-century value creators. In our view, priority investment areas include light rail transit and other modes of sustainable transportation, regional connectivity, innovation networks, arts and culture, and protections for our built and natural environments.

Moreover, our job is to continue to help local small businesses succeed by:

  1. Working with our chamber partners at the provincial and national levels to advance government action on several critical fronts, including the rising cost of doing business, lack of access to skilled workers and key infrastructure gaps.
  2. Connecting local firms to growth-enabling resources such as innovation centres, university and college programs, and organizations for young professionals and entrepreneurs (for example, Hamilton HIVE and YEP).
  3. Partnering with the City of Hamilton to help streamline processes required to establish, operate and scale up a small business in our community.
  4. Collaborating with the City of Burlington and other surrounding municipalities to enable the seamless flow of people, goods, ideas and capital throughout our region.
  5. Fostering opportunities for local small businesses to work with Hamilton’s larger companies and anchor institutions on lucrative projects.

The needs of small business are also top of mind as our chamber prepares to roll out two new taskforces: Open for Business and Intelligent Communities.Hamilton has become an attractive home

Hamilton has become an attractive home for small businesses in sectors ranging from real estate and land development to arts, entertainment and professional services.

This new generation of businesses is creating entrepreneurial dynamism and closing deals — two pillars of a healthy economy.

Together, let’s continue to build a modern and progressive city that works for small business.

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