Monday, March 8, 2010

Flying HI

    Hamilton…it's a beautiful City. While not all would necessarily agree, others have gone out of their way to promote Hamilton as the place to live, work, and play. We've got our waterfalls; our prestigious waterfronts (yes, there are two of them…one known as Harbour West, and the other along the shore of Lake Ontario); our Port Authority which is the busiest of all the Canadian Great Lakes ports; and, we also have an International Airport nestled neatly in the southwest region of Hamilton's vast landscape. Tucked nicely between all this, are well-planned roads and rail networks allowing for smooth transitional movement of both goods and people.

    Today starts an unsolicited multi-part blog on Hamilton's transportation modes, and the role they play in driving Hamilton's economy. And, what better place to start with Hamilton's International Airport:

    Formally known as the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, it was built in 1940 and has since grown from a Training facility to an active passenger and cargo airport. Owned and operated by Tradeport International since 1996, the Airport has developed into a bit of a namesake among other Canadian Airports. However, there is more to building a successful airport than just landing strips and loading areas for passengers and cargo. All too often, and quite too easily, some view airports as land-hogs providing a service for fuel-starved machines designed for moving people and goods from one destination to another. Taking this simplistic assessment on any airport is too narrow of a focus.

    The buzz-word of the day would be any word that is either prefixed, suffixed, or blended with the word "green". Developing the lands surrounding the airport properly connected through rail and road networks, can actually lead to Hamilton's International Airport to melding into the "green" environment. Failing to respond to this growth opportunity will have dire circumstances on our employment capabilities. Distribution Centres, manufacturing facilities, transloading facilities, as well as proper passenger facilities, all encompass a successful airport facility. A successful airport facility is rich in employment lands. If one was to look east to our friends in Toronto, their success in planning and building employment lands has now been maximized. What this translates into is higher freight costs due to traffic congestion; higher container fees due to over-booked dockings; and in general…a not too environmentally pleasing execution of goods movement. (I won't go deeper on the higher costs to land at Pearson Airport.)

    Today, Hamilton is on the cusp of developing the lands surrounding the Airport into something positive for the growth of Hamilton: employment opportunities and commercial tax revenue…two things in desperate need in this City. With the development of the Airport Employment Growth District, Hamilton is poised to provide a greener, more economically viable, method of transporting freight and people. Leading the charge is Tradeport International Corporation, led by Richard Koroscil (President), a clear case for moving Hamilton's airport past a stale inflow & outflow of people and goods has been demonstrated. To be clear though, developing employment lands surrounding the airport is not the only saviour that Hamilton is looking for…it is one of the many employment land developments needed. Without one, the City can only offer a broken supply of lands, and would be limited on who they could offer said lands to.

    Successful Cities have successful airports. Successful airports have successful intermodal facilities. To be successful, proper optimization of land must be realized. Without a successful airport in Hamilton, we limit our growth of employment opportunities and (more importantly), we put added strain on the environment due to increased reliance on a road network.

    My next instalment will be on the Port of Hamilton, operated by Hamilton Port Authority.


Writer's note: While I am the current Chair of the Chamber's Transportation Committee, this opinion piece is in no way connected to or affiliated with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. The writings and musings contained therein are merely my own personal observations and notes on the development of Hamilton's transportation infrastructure. Comments are moderated as I would like an opportunity to respond. All comments are posted.

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