Hamilton's director of planning and economic development delivered a state of the union address on city finances Wednesday in Stoney Creek.

Neil Everson talked to members of the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce about local growth in the commercial, institutional an industrial sector since amalgamation. He said that in 2012 "we set all kinds of records" and cited $1.5 billion in building permits as one new record for the city. Everson also said that Hamilton saw $423 million in commercial growth in 2012, another new record.

Hamilton also had the second lowest tax increase among major Ontario municipalities, according to Everson. He cited a Conference Board of Canada report that said Hamilton is the fastest growing economy in Ontario for 2013 at 2.5 per cent.

Everson also laid out what challenges he expects the city to face in the next few years. These include a growing shortage of industrial space, skilled labour shortages and a growth in personal debt load for Hamiltonians.

Concern about 'right to work' legislation

One major concern, for Everson, comes from south of the border. So called "right to work" states have been pulling businesses away, he says. "The state of North Carolina opened up their wallet," he said, to convince Siemens to move it's gas-turbine manufacturing plant from Hamilton back in 2010. The plant has been a Hamilton fixture since 1896. Right to work laws in the U.S. prevent unions from entering into agreements that can require workers to pay union dues.

Everson told CBC Hamilton in April that Right to Work legislation "hasn't had a pronounced effect on Hamilton yet, but my suspicion is that it will in the years ahead."