Fast 40 program gives national exposure to local companies.
The City of Hamilton set an ambitious five-year goal to boost recognition for its growing companies and beat it almost immediately.
The catalyst for the program was a desire among economic development staff to see more Hamilton companies recognized on Canadian Business Magazine’s Growth 500 annual rankings.
Hamilton was under-represented on the list (just four companies made it in 2016 and 2017) and much smaller cities had more companies being recognized.
“We knew there are a lot of companies in Hamilton experiencing strong growth and doing great things but many of them weren’t getting any exposure,” said Glen Norton, director of economic development. “We wanted to change that.”
So staff set out a stretch goal in its five-year action plan to get 10 Hamilton companies on the prestigious Canadian Business Magazine list. It was a stretch goal because staff wasn’t initially sure how to go about it or if the number was even realistic.
The idea was that it would help the individual companies but also change some out-dated perceptions about what Hamilton is all about.Though the city has the country’s most diversified economy, it’s often still associated primarily with steel and heavy manufacturing.
The first step was launching the Fast 40 program to recognize the city’s fastest- growing businesses. City staff used their knowledge of their sectors to contact companies they thought should apply.
After compiling a Fast 40 list earlier this year, staff studied the Canadian Business Magazine criteria and encouraged suitable companies to apply.
Graeme Brown, Business Development Analyst with the Economic Development Department was the creator behind the program.“For many of these companies we approached, the Growth 500 wasn’t on their radar. But they didn’t realize how competitive they were.They were shocked when we told some of them that if they had applied the previous year, they would have been in the top 50,”
Twelve companies made the list published in September, beating the five-year goal of 10.All were newcomers to the rankings and come from a range of sectors, including transportation, manufacturing, construction, professional services and software.
Three companies – Collective Arts Brewing, Nix Sensor and Caliber Communications – made the Startup 50 list, because they don’t yet have five years of operating revenue needed to make the Growth 500.
Hamilton is now in the top 15 cities for number of Growth 500 businesses and only Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver had more Startup 50 ventures.
“It’s been a great national experience for these companies and for the city. It demonstrates that Hamilton is a great place to be and we hope it encourages businesses to come here and to stay here,” said Norton.
Cameron Ballantyne, one of three owners of Orbis Communications, a 15-year-old company that develops software platforms for colleges and universities, says he wasn’t aware of the Growth 500 list when city staff encouraged him to apply. Orbis came in at No. 434 with five-year growth of 126 per cent growth.
“To have that outreach from the City, saying this might be something good for you, I think it’s a phenomenal approach. It’s incredibly helpful to small and medium businesses that are just doing their own thing…We did take a moment to savour the recognition.”
Hamilton’s top-ranked company at No. 17 was Everworks, an industrial robotics company, delivered growth of 3,833 per cent over five years.
“We are pleased that we can deliver a valuable concierge, bespoke service to these businesses in terms of raising their profiles.”
But more than that, creating these relationships and understanding what these businesses are all about allows city staff to help them get to the next level by connecting them with others in the local business community or alerting them to provincial or federal funding programs.
“There are so many opportunities out there, but it can be a full-time job to keep up. Most entrepreneurs and business owners are too busy in day-to-day operations to take that time.We believe the Fast 40 program can be a catalyst to conversations that will help companies grow.”
Ancaster-based Fairway Electrical Services was recognized for its 321 per cent growth, which earned it No. 222 on the Growth 500 list.
The growth comes thanks to a blend of vision, hard work, determination, great teamwork and constantly reinvesting profits into new equipment and staff training, says Jason Herd, director of business development.The 27-year-old family business is now the largest electrical contractor in the Hamilton region.
“It’s such a breath of fresh air,” Herd says of the recognition coming to the company. “That other people are noticing our hard work makes us feel like it’s starting to pay off. It makes all our employees proud of their company.”
Hamilton’s Fast 40 for 2018 are:
- A.S. Security & Surveillance
- ALP Training Institute
- Ambitious Realty Advisors
- Auto Key Pro Inc.
- Caliber Communications Inc
- CAN-AM Cryoservices Corp
- Carmen’s Group
- Carstar Canada
- CENG Technologies Inc.
- Collective Arts Brewing
- Determination Drilling
- Epic Tool Inc
- Epiphany Coaches Inc.
- Everworks Inc
- Fairway Electrical Services Inc.
- Forge & Foster
- Gala Bakery Inc.
- Guest Plumbing and Heating
- Joseph Haulage Canada Corp.
- Max Aicher North America Ltd.
- MCC Controls
- Nix Sensor Ltd.
- Norstar Windows & Doors Ltd.
- One:One Manufacturing
- Orbis Communications
- Paramount Safety Consulting Inc.
- Relay Coffee Roasters
- RSK Automotive & Collision
- SM Cladding Solutions
- Snowbird Transportation
- Soap Vault
- Superior Radiant Products
- Taridium Canada
- The Generator
- The Laundry Design Works
- The Other Bird
- West Avenue Cider
- WPE Landscape Equipment
Special thanks to participating partners in the Hamilton Fast 40 program:
- Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
- Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce
- Flamborough Chamber of Commerce
- Hamilton Spectator
- Innovation Factory
If you would like to become involved or apply to Hamilton’s Fast 40 please visit Hamilton Economic Development.