By Ryan McGreal
Published October 02, 2007
John Kernaghan's economic prescription in today's Spectator ('Short-term pain essential for city's long-term gain?', Oct. 2, 2007) is shockingly wrong-headed.
His first suggestion is for the city to "live without planned improvements to existing roads, sidewalks and other housekeeping so new roads and sewers can open up development lands."
If we're looking forward, can we please take a few minutes to think about the likely economic conditions we'll be dealing with?
Global oil production is currently at or very near an all time peak. Daily production has been stalled at around 84 million barrels for the past three years, despite oil prices that have quadrupled since 2000, and despite dramatic increases in exploration and drilling.
To think that tomorrow's growth economy can come from servicing greenfields around an airport several kilometres from the centre of town is simply delusional.
Even if the city should somehow manage to leverage a transportation mode with very poor long term prospects for economic spin-off development, the work would involve low wage, low value-add warehousing and logistics.
These are insecure, $10/hour jobs with minimal benefits, not exciting career prospects.
If Hamilton is to grow its economic base and attract new employers, we must do the following:
Leverage what we already have: an intact urban core with excellent shipping and rail connections, two post-secondary institutions, and abundant development lands that are already serviced but underused and in need of remediation.
Exploit future growth areas: in a landmark report to City Council [PDF], energy consultant Richard Gilbert recommended making energy policy Hamilton's Plan A, cultivating new industries around production, conservation (especially retrofits), and electric transit.
Make city business simple and transparent: Hamilton is too-well known for labyrinthine, politicized regulations and backroom deals. We'll attract more high quality entrepreneurs and employers once we build open, straightforward business policies.
Aim higher: we should seek high value-add, highly skilled careers for tomorrow, not dead-end service jobs in the middle of nowhere.
The Farther Out model of development has run its course. Between rising energy costs, climate change, and escalating gridlock in car-dependent suburbs, smart cities are looking inward - and upward - toward a rich future of dense, vibrant urban development that provides a healthy business climate and an excellent quality of life.
That future does not exist in warehouses surrounded by asphalt next to an airport.