By Mike Pearson, News staff
Horizon Utilities and the city’s economic development department want to breathe new life into Hamilton’s vacant industrial buildings.
On Friday, Horizon unveiled its smart growth-inspired development plan to help businesses utilize vacant industrial properties without paying to reconnect electricity service.
The campaign launch was held at a 300,000 square-foot industrial warehouse at 950 South Service Rd. in Stoney Creek.
Max Cananzi, president of Horizon Utilities, said Horizon is the first sustainable electricity company in Canada.
“Our policy is a major game changer in the arena of development,” he said. “We are introducing a new program that aims to reduce connection charges and start-up costs for infill business to potentially benefit real estate and developer transactions. Our new smart-growth inspired policy offers a more affordable way to allow businesses to develop in Hamiton, unlike any other municipality.”
Neil Freeman, Horizon’s vice-president of business development, said the company’s policy changes will level the playing field between infill and greenfield development by lowering start-up costs. He said the smart growth program will be mutually beneficial to the utility and the business community.
“Horizons Utlities will get more usage out of the existing lines and stations, more revenue from the existing asset base, and what this does is it creates less pressure for rate increases because of the additional revenue from existing assets,” said Freeman.
Freeman said Horizon no longer bills customers for system enhancement charges, which are the indirect costs of new connections. The utility has also matched all of its business park locations in Hamilton with the capacities of high voltage stations.
“If the lines are at the street and there’s capacity at the station, the customer can essentially get reconnected at no cost, which makes for a significant benefit for customers,” he said.
Horizon is also helping customers find suitable infill location by compiling a database of vacant properties and cataloguing customer-owned electrical equipment within vacant buildings. Freeman said the database is currently being managed internally but could be made publicly available once privacy issues are sorted out.
Neil Everson, city director of economic development, said Friday’s announcement represents a watershed moment for development and revitalization in Hamilton. He said the city is also committed to sustainable development, as shown through the processing of more than 100 environmental study grants, 32 ERASE remediation grants and 163 acres of cleaned land. The initiatives, he said, have contributed to 650 jobs and over $300 million worth of construction.
“In economic development, we’re very fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with Horizon Utilities,” said Everson.
Galliano Tiberini, president of ARG Group Inc., owns the industrial building at 950 South Service Rd. While the building remains vacant for now, he said the facility could support a manufacturing or warehousing business with hundreds of employees. The site is currently available for leasing and features a patented wall system that includes an R23 insulation rating. The site includes 250-kilowatt rooftop solar panels which generate electricity that is sold back to the grid through the province’s MicroFit program.
Ontario Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Glen Murray was also on hand for Friday morning’s event. Later in the afternoon, Murray and Metrolinx offficials formally announced a $44-million plan for a new transit terminal at Hamilton’s James Street North.
Murray credited Horizon for removing capital costs and encouraging the redevelopment of old industrial buldings. But the minister also trumpeted the Liberal government’s MicroFit program for helping the ARG Group and other businesses revitalize their industrial properties.
“One of the reasons this building is able to be revitalized is because they’ve got solar MicroFit, which is a revenue stream,” said Murray. “With very little energy, through insulation, through R-factor, which we incent, you have this new innovation.... This building actually generates a surplus of energy that goes back and gets sold. So you’re creating a completely green energy system.”