There's a lot of talk about Hamilton building its profile as a hub of culture, innovation and creativity.
It's the young professionals who are truly making waves in this city, bringing passion and expertise to drive the momentum. They work in a variety of sectors from politics to culture to business, but all dedicated to the improving the city.
Those young professionals are congregating downtown Saturday for HIVE X, an annual day-long conference for young leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs.
Here's five names to watch for now and in the future.
Matthew Green, 33
Born and raised on Hamilton, Green is an entrepreneur expanding his community role to politics.
At 25, the athlete and football enthusiast opened Integrated Active Living, a gym and training centre, with a friend. In 2007, he took on the business himself, renamed it Freestyle Fit and has been helping Hamiltonians reach their fitness goals ever since.
But his true passion is community. He's involved with the Hamilton Community Foundation, an after-school program called Empowerment Squared, Mount Olive Lodge (a fraternity established by Black Canadian masons), the Sherman Hub neighbourhood group and hosts GoTV, a municipal affairs program on Cable 14.
Why watch Matthew?
He plans to run in next year's municipal election for Ward 3 councillor, the same ward he was raised, in lives in now and operates his business in.
"My platform is ready to go, 33 years in the making," he said. "The approach I'll take with politics is different and innovative."
Stephanie McLarty, 33
Three years ago, McLarty open REfficient, an online marketplace for businesses to buy underused or new tech and communications equipment from other business' inventory — a solution to keep perfectly good equipment out of landfills. She was inspired by a job she took with a major telecom company to pay the bills where she saw tonnes of equipment getting tossed.
Since then, REffcient has expanded to serve 12 countries, including Canada.
McLarty was the runner up in the 2012 Lion's Lair competition, on McMaster University's alumni board and is the Canadian technical expert for reuse for the International Electrotechnical Commission.
Why pay attention to Stephanie?
REffcient keeps expanding. In the new year, the company will be in a new office at James North and Burlington streets. It's becoming a "sustainable procurement solution" for telecoms equipment of all kinds for more than corporations — local small businesses, school boards and hotels internationally are looking to her for new and underused equipment.
Mark Stewart, 29
Just shy of 30, Mark Stewart is the director of commercial activity for the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He's a two-time graduate from McMaster University, and holds an MBA.
His job, by nature, is entrepreneurial, he said. He's responsible for finding new revenue tools for the art gallery. His most recent success – the Design Annex retail store and event space on James Street North. Stewart also manages the CliC young professional group, run by the art gallery. Aside from his day job, he's also the co-founder of FlyPrint, a one-stop marketing, strategy and printing solution for small business.
After a few years as investment banker in Toronto, he returned back to the downtown-east neighbourhood in Hamilton he grew up, where he wanted to give back to the community.
Why watch Mark?
He's the president of McMaster's alumni board of directors and his passionate about keeping local talent in the city. He offers internships at FlyPrint for MBA students so they don't need to leave the city.
"Students should not just be learning from a lecture. They should be incorporating experiential learning into what they do," he said. "We as young professionals can play a big role in that because we're not too much older than the students so we can be role models and can open doors ad opportunities and direct them to how to be engaged and involved in the city."
Tammy Hwang, 32
Tammy Hwang jokes she's as "Hamilton as it gets," having grown up down the street from the very first Tim Hortons restaurant.
She's the senior manager of entrepreneur experience at Innovation Factory, the regional innovation centre, and is dedicated to improving the city she calls home.
Hwang is a McMaster graduate and has four years experience working in south China, bridging gaps and building partnerships between eastern and western businesses. She was recently hand-picked to be a mentor at the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Malaysia – she was one of 30 selected international and the only mentor representing Canada.
Aside from iF, she's co-founding Strive, an organization to connect non-profits with young professionals.
Why watch Tammy?
She's passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship and young professionals above all else.
"I'm committed to seeing Hamilton become the next hub of innovation and working towards that end goal," she said. "All paths work towards that."
Joe Accardi, 28
Joe Accardi is a transplant from Thornhill, north of Toronto, who moved to Hamilton in search of business opportunities. That was in 2009. He now owns three businesses.
Red Brick Rentals manages 30 properties in the downtown area, focusing on fixing up homes and mixed-used spaces in transitional neighbourhoods. The Green Smoothie Bar is a popular spot for a healthy beverage on James Street North. Platform 302 is a creative incubator and workspace for small businesses and start-ups.
In his spare time, he's on the board of directors for Food4Kids, a local program that helps feed Hamilton kids.
He has a passion for making Hamilton a better place.
"I love what I do.... I rather do nothing else," he said. "I have so much certainty that this city is going to blow people's mind."