Random House Canada
Welcome to Hamilton, forever a city of the future.
The keynote speaker at last week’s economic summit made the crack and got a laugh from the convention centre crowd. But the joke’s on us if we don’t get our act together in a real hurry on a handful of billion-dollar community-building initiatives.
The 2015 Pan Am Games aren’t just a super-sized construction project. It’s a chance to change a well-worn conversation that’s long past its expiration date. At long last, we can quit talking about how Hamilton is poised for greatness. How Hamilton’s renaissance, rebirth and renewal is on the horizon and around the corner. How the city’s a diamond in the rough, Canada’s best kept secret and the next best place to set up shop and put down roots.
With the infrastructure investments and economic spinoffs of the Pan Am Games, we can stop talking, start doing and finally deliver on some of that potential we’ve been promising for far too long. While we’ve had a false start with the stadium, here’s hoping we learn from the experience, get our act together and start singing from the same song sheet.
We’ll get a second chance to get it right with rapid transit, another gift-wrapped community-building project for Hamilton. Rapid transit will make it easier and faster to get around the city and bring people and jobs closer together. Rapid transit will also trigger more commercial and residential development, higher property values and increased tax revenues up and down the transit lines.
Best of all, rapid transit will strengthen Hamilton’s economic ties to Greater Toronto. And that will be a very good thing for our community. This is our best shot at making Hamilton the shipping and receiving department for one of the world’s leading megaregions.
We’re lucky to be part of a region that stretches from Montreal and Ottawa, through Greater Toronto and over to Kitchener-Waterloo. Taken together, this region is home to more than 22 million people and one of the largest in the world.
Megaregions are the new suburbs, says author Richard Florida. And in the aftermath of the Great Recession and in the resetting of life as we know it, Florida says these regions are turbocharged job-creating and wealth-generating hotbeds for innovation and entrepreneurship.
“These megaregions, not nations, really power the global economy,” says Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
The world’s 40 largest megaregions already account for two-thirds of all global economic activity and 85 per cent of the world’s technological innovation. Megaregions house 85 per cent of all corporate headquarters in Canada and the United States. These megaregions are also talent magnets, attracting the best and brightest who want great jobs, strong social networks and a great gridlock-free life outside of work.
And it’s rapid transit that will be the glue that binds megaregions together. “High speed rail holds the promise of connecting declining places to thriving ones, greatly expanding the economic options and opportunities available to residents,” says Florida. “Instead of stumbling along inefficiently as functionally distinct centres, they can become part of a much larger area of interconnected supply and demand, production and consumption.
“Think of it as shrinking distance, borrowing proximity and building scale. It may be the single best way the federal government can help rebuild once-great industrial corridors of the Great Lakes, which have lost much of their previous economic function and where distances are currently too great to commute from one city to the next.”
Along with major investments in rapid transit, Florida predicts a host of changes in how we’ll work and live following the Great Recession, the Great Reset and the emergence of “the new normal”. We’ll be driving a whole lot less. More of us will choose to be renters rather than homeowners. The suburbs will get redeveloped into denser, mixed-use communities. And the majority of us will either be part of the creative class or working in the service economy, which already accounts for the majority of jobs.
Making those jobs more innovative, productive and higher paying will be one of our biggest challenges and greatest opportunities.
“The service economy offers a tremendous potential for tapping the creative contributions of frontline workers and turning them into improved productivity,” says Florida. “Once we recognize service work as a source of innovation and productivity improvement, we can begin to raise wages in sync with the productivity gains these workers generate.”
Time to stop talking and start doing Hamilton. The future is now and it’s not about to wait for us to get our act together.