Hamilton still viewing 2020 as ‘big year’ for development despite coronavirus

Despite state-mandated business closures because of the coronavirus crisis and leaps in the unemployment rates nationally and locally, Hamilton officials remain bullish on development within their city this year.

They’re still expecting to make announcements in coming weeks about companies starting operations here.

Hamilton recently published its 2019 Economic Development Annual Report, in which it announced that over the past 10 years, the city has seen $539.6 million in private investment.

During that period, 75 businesses opened in the urban core; 2,712 jobs were created and 273 housing units were created in the urban core.

“I see this year as being a big year for us,” said Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson. “I see some pretty things that I think are still going to happen yet this year.”

City Manager Joshua Smith also is optimistic that 2020 will be a strong year for development, despite the economic headwinds because of coronavirus shutdowns.

“I feel really good about where we’re at right now,” Smith said.

He feels the city may feel like it was “shot out of a cannon when we get out of this.”

“It’s fun for us to be able to take a look at those (investment) numbers, and you can see the progress that’s been made,” Gunderson said. “Sometimes you forget to remind yourself and your staff that there’s been some pretty neat things that have happened over the years.”

Here’s a look at the summary of developments over the past decade:

• Industrial development — “More than $227 million has been invested into industrial projects in our community, ranging from new builds, such as 80 Acres Farms’ new building at Hamilton Enterprise Park, to capital expansions by companies like thyssenkrupp Bilstein.” Another project under construction is the Hamilton Caster expansion.

• Urban revitalization — Over the decade, almost two dozen projects, valued at $211 million, have turned underutilized or empty buildings in Hamilton’s urban core. Those projects “have led to new parks as well as 75 new small businesses opening in the urban core,” the report states.

• New development and expansions — About $100 million was poured into new developments or expansions, including The Marcum complex of retail and apartments, and new or expanded healthcare facilities.

“Your urban redevelopment doesn’t necessarily mean new jobs,” Gunderson said. “It might mean new people (living in an area), new retail businesses, that kind of stuff.”

Gunderson noted a couple of business buildings were constructed in 2019: a 156,000-square-foot industrial building put up by ProLogis along Enterprise Drive; and a 280,000-square-foot warehouse thyseenkrupp Bilstein’s operations.

The city hasn’t put “all its eggs in one basket,” Gunderson said.

“We’re doing industrial at the same time you’re renewing different buildings within the city,” Gunderson said.

One thing the city’s report noted is Hamilton had 100,000 visitors in 2019. Something officials believe will significantly buoy the city’s fortunes is the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports facility and convention center, due for completion in late 2021. That facility eventually is expected to attract a million people a year, a reason new shops have been opening along the Main Street business corridor.

“I’m bullish,” Gunderson said. “We’ve got some pretty positive things we feel pretty good about that are coming our way in 2020. But honestly, the city has been positioned for where we’re it.”

Gunderson said he hopes the virus crisis will be merely a hiccup for the city: “We just have so much traction that I just see this being a very good year for us, still. A lot of the right things have been done, and it’s going to pay dividends, even through the hard times.”

Hamilton Private Investment since 2010

Here is the city’s summary of private investment the past decade:

Industrial development: $227 million-plus;

Urban revitalization: $211 million;

New development and expansions: about $100 million;

Total: 539.6 million.

Source: City of Hamilton

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