Hamilton rents out space on Queen Street West to try to get Toronto's attention

The city is inviting Toronto developers and businesses to think about Hamilton at an event that involves a former mayor of Pittsburgh.

Hamilton Consulate will be May 31 and June 1 at The Burroughs at 639 Queen St. W.

Hamilton will try to sell itself to Toronto this month when it rents out space on Queen Street West. (Wikicommons)

They think we're solely an industrial town. Or they think we're polluted, or boring, or just a suburb. At worst, they don't think of us at all.

Those are some of the perceptions Torontonians have of Hamilton. Later this month, the city will make an unusually high-profile effort to change what Toronto thinks when the economic development department rents out space on Queen Street West.

The event is called Hamilton Consulate, an effort to encourage investment in the city. Hamilton, as the promotional materials say, is "Canada's biggest urban comeback story."

It's not an attempt to get people to move here, said Glen Norton, Hamilton's economic development director. That's happening already, and it's driving up local housing prices.

But Hamilton, with its recent renaissance, is fertile with investment opportunities, Norton said. And Torontonians have looked the other way for so long that many simply don't know that.

This event is more to encourage companies looking at a second location to consider Hamilton, or those with big money to invest here, he said.

"How do you get more people to understand Hamilton to wipe out some of the stereotypes?" said Norton, whose department is spending $42,000 on the effort.

About 30 local agencies and businesses are combining to match that, including Hamilton Health Sciences and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Some of those businesses are participating in the panels.

Those panels include "Reinforced Steel," a conversation with Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Tom Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh. They'll talk about how steel towns can diversify and "rebrand" in a "post-industrial context," the promo says.

There will also be events to highlight real estate, film, tech industries and Hamilton fashion. There'll also be a "speed dating" event between Hamilton reps and people interested in investing.

Recent years have seen considerably more interest in Hamilton from Toronto residents and developers. But this is perhaps the city's highest profile effort yet to court them.

Suzanne Mammel, executive officer of the Hamilton Halton Homebuilders Association, says it's the right time. A lot of people in Toronto are locked into their old perceptions and don't know there's money to be had here.

There are still people who think Hamilton is "a suburb of Toronto," she said.

"We're very different. We have our own unique identity." But people "don't take the time or have the reason to know any different."

Hamilton Consulate will be May 31 and June 1 at The Burroughs at 639 Queen St. W.