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Wanted: Industries to move in to the airport growth district

Are you an industry that employs hundreds of people and generates millions a year in property taxes? If so, the city of Hamilton wants to hear from you now.
City officials will meet next week to discuss how to market the land in the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD).

Are you an industry that employs hundreds of people and generates millions a year in property taxes? If so, the city of Hamilton knows of some land you can buy.

City officials will meet next week to work on a marketing plan to find buyers for land in the airport employment growth district (AEGD).

We have to start targeting who we want to see in the area.- Guy Paparella, director, industrial parks and airport development

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved the boundary for the 555 net hectare area around the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport on Tuesday. Now the city will put out feelers for willing buyers.

The dream buyer is “someone that employs 1,000 people and creates $2 million a year in annual taxes,” said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster. “And no smokestacks.”

Guy Paparella, director of the city's industrial parks and airport development division,​ says he’ll meet with economic development officials next week to discuss a strategy.

With OMB challenges, the AEGD process has taken a decade rather than the three years the city initially planned. So the city is anxious to get going, Paparella said.

“It’s been a long time,” he said. “It’s been 10 years.”

“We’ve got to make sure we move efficiently and effectively to create jobs and start creating more municipal assessment for the area.”

The AEGD has been a divisive issue in Hamilton. The city says the plan, which is the largest urban boundary expansion in Hamilton’s history, is necessary to create desirable green space to lure more jobs. Figures show that Hamilton residential taxpayers shoulder an increasingly larger burden of the tax bill as the industrial tax base dwindles.

Meanwhile, Environment Hamilton and Hamiltonians for Progressive Growth fundraised and pooled resources to argue against the expansion, saying the city already has enough employment lands, should focus more on brownfields and that the expansion eats up precious green space.

But the OMB approved the final boundary on Tuesday with no changes, which makes the AEGD a done deal.

About 15 per cent of the land is ready for willing buyers, said Gerry Davis, head of public works. It will take the city at least three years to provide water and sewer to the whole area.

The city would like to see industries involved in logistics, infrastructure and transportation, but it’s open to ideas, Paparella said.

With economic development staff, “we have to start targeting who we want to see in the area,” he said.

Some farmers in the AEGD have had “for sale” signs up on their properties for a while, Ferguson said. Some attended the hearing Tuesday to see the deal finalized.

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