It was a splashy media event on Tuesday, and Dino Trevisani of IBM Canada looked every bit the polished corporate president.
He wore a suit and tie. He had staffers milling around him, handing him speaking notes in brown folders. He sat with the mayor.
Yet for Trevisani, the announcement that the company will move in to the partially vacant former Stelco tower wasn't just another day on the job. It was personal too.
Trevisani is a Hamilton native. His parents — aged 93 and 90 — still live here. His 93-year-old father, he told the crowd, is about to do his driving test. You can either wish him luck, Trevisani joked, or "stay off the road."
'I hope at some point, we'll take over the whole tower.' - Dino Trevisani, IBM Canada president
His brother and sister live in Hamilton too. His sister-in-law, a former Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) nurse, is fighting cancer.
So for Trevisani, to come back to the city he's seen struggle with such a bombshell announcement — that IBM will work with HHS on health care innovation — was a moment for him.
"I'd like to see Hamilton really thrive," he said.
"We've got a really attractive environment for young people to want to come and work and live. I want this to be very successful for my own personal interest, and IBM, and HHS. I want it to be world class."
With the partnership, IBM will merge its Watson technology — the same technology that famously beat trivia masters Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings at Jeopardy — with HHS's 1,500 research staff.
The two companies will occupy three floors of the former Stelco tower, now known as 100 King Street West. IBM will bring a still unknown number of jobs. HHS will also move 350 existing administrative jobs, unrelated to the partnership, from the Chedoke site to the downtown high rise. Work starts in the fall.
'He may have left physically, but his heart has always been in Hamilton.' - Sam Merulla, city councillor
To see the tech giant move in to the tower, which has sat partially empty for years, is "a game changer," said Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor. More than that, "it's symbolic."
"That tower, the Stelco tower, once represented something of our past and is a part of our future," he said.
A symbolic location
"To have it full and bustling again would send a message that we are a diverse community," he said — one that no longer relies solely on steel.
Trevisani wants Hamilton to be a city where young people can have thriving high-tech careers without leaving.
He attended high school at St. Jean De Brebeauf, then studied business McMaster University. He attended graduate school at Queen's University and Cornell University. He's spent the past 16 years living and working in New York.
"I would have been just as happy to start in health care and grow my career here in Hamilton," he said.
Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, went to school with Trevisani on the east Mountain.
'Heart has always been in Hamilton'
"He may have left physically, but his heart has always been in Hamilton," Merulla said.
That appeared to be true on Tuesday, when Trevisani and Rob MacIsaac, president of HHS, said this was just the beginning.
The pair hope this development draws other like-minded companies to Hamilton. Their partnership will start with six projects. In the first two, IBM and HHS will test how Watson can be applied to learn more about how patients use the health care system. They will also look at how to make a current HHS system of monitoring a patient's vital signs mobile.
Trevisani hopes it expands.
"I hope at some point, we'll take over the whole tower."