As Hamilton moves toward enhancing employment land developments, I offer my thoughts on what drives the economy and the impacts of a well-balanced transportation inter-modal connectivity.
Creating jobs has become the new mantra for politicians, communities, and pretty much anyone who has recognized the cause and effect of consumerism. While some look to develop 'green' jobs, others look to resurrect existing manufacturing sectors, and others look to inspire policy changes to inspire others to become visionaries in job creation.
Whether driven by economics or environmental awareness, creating jobs no longer comes at the expense of convenience or long-term impacts on community development. Here in Hamilton, while we'd like to see the steel mills up and running to their glory days of the early 70s, we recognize that that comes at a cost to our environment and healthy lifestyle…so we temper that wish accordingly. To give credit where credit is due, companies have made significant strides towards providing more environmentally responsible ways to manufacture their products.
Completing the picture towards job prosperity is a well-planned transportation network which optimizes the multi-modal sectors accordingly. For the most part, goods movement is viewed as the 'enemy' of the environment, yet without a goods movement strategy any progress towards job creation is stymied at the onset. Canada Bread recently announced plans to build a new facility in Hamilton, mainly due to the road logistics in place…the ease of access; which leads to cost controls, and minimizing impacts on the environment. Building (or restoring) manufacturing facilities isn't as easy as it once was…ensuring a maximum utilization of the transportation corridor is paramount to the success of the facility.
The introduction of 'clusters' helped manufacturers keep various stages of production within a small area to minimize transportation costs. From these 'clusters', the development of multi-modal 'hubs' became the next logical step in controlling and managing existing methods of goods movement. The best example of this would be the creation of Nine Dragons in China. This multi-faceted facility incorporates a shipping port as part of the warehousing and production facility. In Canada, we have similar multi-modal facilities primarily incorporating the collaboration of rail & road, or road & air, or marine & rail…very rarely would you see a 4-pronged multi-modal regional facility. In either mixed use, one thing is perfectly clear…jobs are the main benefit of these facilities which capitalize on their collaboration to move goods from one destination to another.
Today, Hamilton is poised to expand its current 'gateway' through the incorporation of employment land development, and inter-modal hub facilities connecting roads, rail, marine, and air. In horse-racing vernacular this would be a trifecta worth betting on. Hamilton currently holds one of the larger great lake Ports; an international airport; a national rail linkage capability; and a successful road network poised for further enhancement to connections to the US border and the GTA. From a Regional perspective, Hamilton holds the future success of south-western Ontario's prosperity through expanded multi-modal employment land development.
Understanding the complexities of urban development and environmental protectionism, mass transit must be integrated into the advance of inter-modal development. Availing land for utilization of inter-connectivity of the various modes of transportation is also reliant on the land itself to be 'shovel-ready'…in other words: ensure the lands surrounding the transportation network are feasible for development. Currently Hamilton has an "Airport Employment Growth District" (AEGD) plan on the table, however further enhancement of the plan is required to allow for complete development of the area identified in the AEGD. A common misconception is that businesses who are looking to develop facilities within the Hamilton region can simply utilize existing vacant lands…however one needs to look at why those lands became vacant…it wasn't purely on technological advances…some closures where pinned to lack of transportation connectivity.
At the end of the day, evolving Hamilton's gateway status into a true multi-modal hub will spell true job creation. For as we know it, regardless of the product being manufactured or shipped, a successful utilization of all available modes of transportation will sustain our competitiveness in the global market.