Maple Leaf Foods leaves the table

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Bob Smith wants to throw a party, while Hamilton councillor Terry Whitehead would rather drown his sorrows in the aftermath of Maple Leaf Foods decision to withdraw its offer to buy city land.

Opponents of Maple Leaf Foods' proposal to purchase about 50 acres of land at the North Glanbrook Industrial Park to construct an estimated $250- million pork processing facility cheered the company's decision this week.

"We're quite happy," said Smith, chair of the grassroots group Citizens Against Pig Slaughterhouses (CAPS). "It's been a long, hard summer, and now it has paid off. I think we'll throw a party."

Eleanor Giacomazza, who helped create the community group, Hamiltonians for Development with Vision, applauded the company's decision.

"The fight was hard, very tough, but it's all worth it," she said. "It's good for the city."

She expects her neighbours to take down their anti-Maple Leaf Foods signs which had become a fixture within their mountain neighbourhood.

"It was unconscionable to have a slaughterhouse locate in that area," she said.

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, who opposed the sale, remained adamant the company failed to keep the community informed; it did not assure residents odours would be contained; and its environmental history with its Dundas Rothsay plant didn't help its cause.

"We are here to unite communities rather than divide them," said Jackson. "The company stumbled out of the gate. It's lack of communication was a failed strategy.

"What's really at play with their withdrawal?"

Whitehead also partly blamed the company for being "weak-kneed" in not facing its critics.

"They would have been vindicated," he said.

Whitehead, who ran in the 2003 municipal election to increase the city's assessment base to help tax-burdened seniors, was devastated by the company's November 22 decision.

"It's the lowest I've ever felt in my political career," he said.

Whitehead, who supported selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods, said the whole process was "politicized" from the start, creating a misinformation campaign that demonized a company that was expected to provide up to $9 million in assessment and create about 1,200 jobs.

"(Opponents) painted Maple Leaf Foods as a toxic waste dump," he said. "Branding was an issue."

Jennette Jones, director of communications for Maple Leaf Foods, said the company withdrew its application because of the "lack of council support" and the "community opposition."

"We wanted a firm decision to move forward," she said.

Councillors were set to vote on the land sale November 23 and indications were that the decision would have been narrowly approved.

It was expected during the special Committee of the Whole meeting there would have been a number of motions for politicians to consider, including rezoning the industrial park before selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods. It was also expected city lawyers would have ruled this option illegal.

With such a small margin of support, Maple Leaf Foods officials didn't believe there was enough support from council to approve a subsequent rezoning application for the slaughterhouse.

"I'm disillusioned," said Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla, who supported the company's application. "This is a sad day for the city. It's unconscionable to allow this to happen."

Stoney Creek councillor Dave Mitchell, who represents the ward where the industrial park is located, said he wanted the process to continue.

"I regret that," he said.

Mitchell said he would have voted to rezone the land first before selling the property. If that failed, he would have asked that the city increase the price of the land, based upon the property having services.

Comparable land prices in the Hamilton mountain area are selling for about $100,000 per acre, but the city was proposing to sell the 50 acres of serviced land for about $50,000 per acre.

"That is ridiculous," said Jackson.

Stoney Creek councillor Phil Bruckler, who initially remained non-committal about his decision, said he wanted the process to move forward.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I wanted the full assessment to take place."

Hamilton councillors Bob Bratina and Brian McHattie were the most vocal council opponents to the proposal, with Bratina speaking out against allowing the land sale to take place during two public meetings held by CAPS. The last meeting held November 15 attracted about 400 people.

But it was the less outspoken politicians who were moving further away from approving the land sale. Dundas councillor Art Samson cited quality of life issues as his reason for not supporting the deal, while Hamilton downtown councillor Bernie Morelli said he didn't want another company setting up shop in Hamilton that could potentially create an environmental mess.

"It would re-emphasize the negative image of Hamilton, something we are trying to improve," said Morelli.

Hamilton has become known as a city that accepts any businesses, even if they contribute to its poor environmental reputation, said Jackson. Companies such as Bitumar, which produces liquid asphalt, the energy-from-waste company Liberty Energy, and Biox, are typical examples, he said.

"How is that turning the corner image wise?," he said.

"There would be no job losses. (The 1,200 jobs) will stay in Hamilton. But I feel we can entice good companies here. I feel we can do that."

Even Mayor Larry Di Ianni, who has been the company's largest cheerleader, backed off a bit when it was revealed Maple Leaf Foods' Rothsay plant in Dundas would pay a record fine for environmental problems over a three-year period.

Supporters of the proposal, especially Neil Everson, the executive director of city's Economic Development department, trumpeted the idea the company would expand the city's tax base, spend $1.5 million in permits, boast a payroll of nearly $90 million and employ 1,200 people, with the potential of doubling the number of people.

The Maple Leaf Foods jobs would nearly offset the 1,600 jobs Hamilton has lost over the last few years as Levi- Strauss, Rheem and Camco have closed their doors.

Jackson was troubled by city staff's position, saying they were acting more like salesmen than offering a non-biased assessment of the proposal.

Maple Leaf Foods' decision will contribute to the perception that Hamilton isn't business-friendly, say some councillors, and only certain companies need apply to locate in the municipality.

"The message it sends is Hamilton is not open for business," said Whitehead. "The process remains politicized, an idea that Maple Leaf Foods has proven true."

Bruckler says the city must immediately take steps to overcome the perception.

"We have to make it clear we are open for business and interested in attracting industry," he said. "We have to be ready to move forward with the industrial park."

But both Smith and Giacomazza said they will keep a close watch on what type of business does want to locate in the industrial park.

"We need a little bit better industry in there," Smith said. "We will stay active to see what goes in there."

Giacomazza says Hamilton officials are wrong to believe other businesses will now ignore Hamilton. She said a better quality company will now want to locate at the Glanbrook site.

"Other companies have expressed an interest," she said. "The sun is shining. Hamilton has a bright future."

Maple Leaf Foods officials said they will make a decision on the future of its Burlington operations next year. In the meantime, the mayors of both Burlington and Brantford have stated they want the company in their communities. Also expressing an interest in Maple Leaf Foods is West Lincoln.

Jones said she has not seen a proposal from Brantford, but confirmed other communities have enquired about the company. She also said Hamilton will continue to be an option that company officials will consider.

Maple Leaf Foods currently employs about 450 people at four plants in Hamilton.

Maple Leaf Foods leaves the table

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Bob Smith wants to throw a party, while Hamilton councillor Terry Whitehead would rather drown his sorrows in the aftermath of Maple Leaf Foods decision to withdraw its offer to buy city land.

Opponents of Maple Leaf Foods' proposal to purchase about 50 acres of land at the North Glanbrook Industrial Park to construct an estimated $250- million pork processing facility cheered the company's decision this week.

"We're quite happy," said Smith, chair of the grassroots group Citizens Against Pig Slaughterhouses (CAPS). "It's been a long, hard summer, and now it has paid off. I think we'll throw a party."

Eleanor Giacomazza, who helped create the community group, Hamiltonians for Development with Vision, applauded the company's decision.

"The fight was hard, very tough, but it's all worth it," she said. "It's good for the city."

She expects her neighbours to take down their anti-Maple Leaf Foods signs which had become a fixture within their mountain neighbourhood.

"It was unconscionable to have a slaughterhouse locate in that area," she said.

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, who opposed the sale, remained adamant the company failed to keep the community informed; it did not assure residents odours would be contained; and its environmental history with its Dundas Rothsay plant didn't help its cause.

"We are here to unite communities rather than divide them," said Jackson. "The company stumbled out of the gate. It's lack of communication was a failed strategy.

"What's really at play with their withdrawal?"

Whitehead also partly blamed the company for being "weak-kneed" in not facing its critics.

"They would have been vindicated," he said.

Whitehead, who ran in the 2003 municipal election to increase the city's assessment base to help tax-burdened seniors, was devastated by the company's November 22 decision.

"It's the lowest I've ever felt in my political career," he said.

Whitehead, who supported selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods, said the whole process was "politicized" from the start, creating a misinformation campaign that demonized a company that was expected to provide up to $9 million in assessment and create about 1,200 jobs.

"(Opponents) painted Maple Leaf Foods as a toxic waste dump," he said. "Branding was an issue."

Jennette Jones, director of communications for Maple Leaf Foods, said the company withdrew its application because of the "lack of council support" and the "community opposition."

"We wanted a firm decision to move forward," she said.

Councillors were set to vote on the land sale November 23 and indications were that the decision would have been narrowly approved.

It was expected during the special Committee of the Whole meeting there would have been a number of motions for politicians to consider, including rezoning the industrial park before selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods. It was also expected city lawyers would have ruled this option illegal.

With such a small margin of support, Maple Leaf Foods officials didn't believe there was enough support from council to approve a subsequent rezoning application for the slaughterhouse.

"I'm disillusioned," said Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla, who supported the company's application. "This is a sad day for the city. It's unconscionable to allow this to happen."

Stoney Creek councillor Dave Mitchell, who represents the ward where the industrial park is located, said he wanted the process to continue.

"I regret that," he said.

Mitchell said he would have voted to rezone the land first before selling the property. If that failed, he would have asked that the city increase the price of the land, based upon the property having services.

Comparable land prices in the Hamilton mountain area are selling for about $100,000 per acre, but the city was proposing to sell the 50 acres of serviced land for about $50,000 per acre.

"That is ridiculous," said Jackson.

Stoney Creek councillor Phil Bruckler, who initially remained non-committal about his decision, said he wanted the process to move forward.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I wanted the full assessment to take place."

Hamilton councillors Bob Bratina and Brian McHattie were the most vocal council opponents to the proposal, with Bratina speaking out against allowing the land sale to take place during two public meetings held by CAPS. The last meeting held November 15 attracted about 400 people.

But it was the less outspoken politicians who were moving further away from approving the land sale. Dundas councillor Art Samson cited quality of life issues as his reason for not supporting the deal, while Hamilton downtown councillor Bernie Morelli said he didn't want another company setting up shop in Hamilton that could potentially create an environmental mess.

"It would re-emphasize the negative image of Hamilton, something we are trying to improve," said Morelli.

Hamilton has become known as a city that accepts any businesses, even if they contribute to its poor environmental reputation, said Jackson. Companies such as Bitumar, which produces liquid asphalt, the energy-from-waste company Liberty Energy, and Biox, are typical examples, he said.

"How is that turning the corner image wise?," he said.

"There would be no job losses. (The 1,200 jobs) will stay in Hamilton. But I feel we can entice good companies here. I feel we can do that."

Even Mayor Larry Di Ianni, who has been the company's largest cheerleader, backed off a bit when it was revealed Maple Leaf Foods' Rothsay plant in Dundas would pay a record fine for environmental problems over a three-year period.

Supporters of the proposal, especially Neil Everson, the executive director of city's Economic Development department, trumpeted the idea the company would expand the city's tax base, spend $1.5 million in permits, boast a payroll of nearly $90 million and employ 1,200 people, with the potential of doubling the number of people.

The Maple Leaf Foods jobs would nearly offset the 1,600 jobs Hamilton has lost over the last few years as Levi- Strauss, Rheem and Camco have closed their doors.

Jackson was troubled by city staff's position, saying they were acting more like salesmen than offering a non-biased assessment of the proposal.

Maple Leaf Foods' decision will contribute to the perception that Hamilton isn't business-friendly, say some councillors, and only certain companies need apply to locate in the municipality.

"The message it sends is Hamilton is not open for business," said Whitehead. "The process remains politicized, an idea that Maple Leaf Foods has proven true."

Bruckler says the city must immediately take steps to overcome the perception.

"We have to make it clear we are open for business and interested in attracting industry," he said. "We have to be ready to move forward with the industrial park."

But both Smith and Giacomazza said they will keep a close watch on what type of business does want to locate in the industrial park.

"We need a little bit better industry in there," Smith said. "We will stay active to see what goes in there."

Giacomazza says Hamilton officials are wrong to believe other businesses will now ignore Hamilton. She said a better quality company will now want to locate at the Glanbrook site.

"Other companies have expressed an interest," she said. "The sun is shining. Hamilton has a bright future."

Maple Leaf Foods officials said they will make a decision on the future of its Burlington operations next year. In the meantime, the mayors of both Burlington and Brantford have stated they want the company in their communities. Also expressing an interest in Maple Leaf Foods is West Lincoln.

Jones said she has not seen a proposal from Brantford, but confirmed other communities have enquired about the company. She also said Hamilton will continue to be an option that company officials will consider.

Maple Leaf Foods currently employs about 450 people at four plants in Hamilton.

Maple Leaf Foods leaves the table

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Bob Smith wants to throw a party, while Hamilton councillor Terry Whitehead would rather drown his sorrows in the aftermath of Maple Leaf Foods decision to withdraw its offer to buy city land.

Opponents of Maple Leaf Foods' proposal to purchase about 50 acres of land at the North Glanbrook Industrial Park to construct an estimated $250- million pork processing facility cheered the company's decision this week.

"We're quite happy," said Smith, chair of the grassroots group Citizens Against Pig Slaughterhouses (CAPS). "It's been a long, hard summer, and now it has paid off. I think we'll throw a party."

Eleanor Giacomazza, who helped create the community group, Hamiltonians for Development with Vision, applauded the company's decision.

"The fight was hard, very tough, but it's all worth it," she said. "It's good for the city."

She expects her neighbours to take down their anti-Maple Leaf Foods signs which had become a fixture within their mountain neighbourhood.

"It was unconscionable to have a slaughterhouse locate in that area," she said.

Hamilton councillor Tom Jackson, who opposed the sale, remained adamant the company failed to keep the community informed; it did not assure residents odours would be contained; and its environmental history with its Dundas Rothsay plant didn't help its cause.

"We are here to unite communities rather than divide them," said Jackson. "The company stumbled out of the gate. It's lack of communication was a failed strategy.

"What's really at play with their withdrawal?"

Whitehead also partly blamed the company for being "weak-kneed" in not facing its critics.

"They would have been vindicated," he said.

Whitehead, who ran in the 2003 municipal election to increase the city's assessment base to help tax-burdened seniors, was devastated by the company's November 22 decision.

"It's the lowest I've ever felt in my political career," he said.

Whitehead, who supported selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods, said the whole process was "politicized" from the start, creating a misinformation campaign that demonized a company that was expected to provide up to $9 million in assessment and create about 1,200 jobs.

"(Opponents) painted Maple Leaf Foods as a toxic waste dump," he said. "Branding was an issue."

Jennette Jones, director of communications for Maple Leaf Foods, said the company withdrew its application because of the "lack of council support" and the "community opposition."

"We wanted a firm decision to move forward," she said.

Councillors were set to vote on the land sale November 23 and indications were that the decision would have been narrowly approved.

It was expected during the special Committee of the Whole meeting there would have been a number of motions for politicians to consider, including rezoning the industrial park before selling the land to Maple Leaf Foods. It was also expected city lawyers would have ruled this option illegal.

With such a small margin of support, Maple Leaf Foods officials didn't believe there was enough support from council to approve a subsequent rezoning application for the slaughterhouse.

"I'm disillusioned," said Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla, who supported the company's application. "This is a sad day for the city. It's unconscionable to allow this to happen."

Stoney Creek councillor Dave Mitchell, who represents the ward where the industrial park is located, said he wanted the process to continue.

"I regret that," he said.

Mitchell said he would have voted to rezone the land first before selling the property. If that failed, he would have asked that the city increase the price of the land, based upon the property having services.

Comparable land prices in the Hamilton mountain area are selling for about $100,000 per acre, but the city was proposing to sell the 50 acres of serviced land for about $50,000 per acre.

"That is ridiculous," said Jackson.

Stoney Creek councillor Phil Bruckler, who initially remained non-committal about his decision, said he wanted the process to move forward.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I wanted the full assessment to take place."

Hamilton councillors Bob Bratina and Brian McHattie were the most vocal council opponents to the proposal, with Bratina speaking out against allowing the land sale to take place during two public meetings held by CAPS. The last meeting held November 15 attracted about 400 people.

But it was the less outspoken politicians who were moving further away from approving the land sale. Dundas councillor Art Samson cited quality of life issues as his reason for not supporting the deal, while Hamilton downtown councillor Bernie Morelli said he didn't want another company setting up shop in Hamilton that could potentially create an environmental mess.

"It would re-emphasize the negative image of Hamilton, something we are trying to improve," said Morelli.

Hamilton has become known as a city that accepts any businesses, even if they contribute to its poor environmental reputation, said Jackson. Companies such as Bitumar, which produces liquid asphalt, the energy-from-waste company Liberty Energy, and Biox, are typical examples, he said.

"How is that turning the corner image wise?," he said.

"There would be no job losses. (The 1,200 jobs) will stay in Hamilton. But I feel we can entice good companies here. I feel we can do that."

Even Mayor Larry Di Ianni, who has been the company's largest cheerleader, backed off a bit when it was revealed Maple Leaf Foods' Rothsay plant in Dundas would pay a record fine for environmental problems over a three-year period.

Supporters of the proposal, especially Neil Everson, the executive director of city's Economic Development department, trumpeted the idea the company would expand the city's tax base, spend $1.5 million in permits, boast a payroll of nearly $90 million and employ 1,200 people, with the potential of doubling the number of people.

The Maple Leaf Foods jobs would nearly offset the 1,600 jobs Hamilton has lost over the last few years as Levi- Strauss, Rheem and Camco have closed their doors.

Jackson was troubled by city staff's position, saying they were acting more like salesmen than offering a non-biased assessment of the proposal.

Maple Leaf Foods' decision will contribute to the perception that Hamilton isn't business-friendly, say some councillors, and only certain companies need apply to locate in the municipality.

"The message it sends is Hamilton is not open for business," said Whitehead. "The process remains politicized, an idea that Maple Leaf Foods has proven true."

Bruckler says the city must immediately take steps to overcome the perception.

"We have to make it clear we are open for business and interested in attracting industry," he said. "We have to be ready to move forward with the industrial park."

But both Smith and Giacomazza said they will keep a close watch on what type of business does want to locate in the industrial park.

"We need a little bit better industry in there," Smith said. "We will stay active to see what goes in there."

Giacomazza says Hamilton officials are wrong to believe other businesses will now ignore Hamilton. She said a better quality company will now want to locate at the Glanbrook site.

"Other companies have expressed an interest," she said. "The sun is shining. Hamilton has a bright future."

Maple Leaf Foods officials said they will make a decision on the future of its Burlington operations next year. In the meantime, the mayors of both Burlington and Brantford have stated they want the company in their communities. Also expressing an interest in Maple Leaf Foods is West Lincoln.

Jones said she has not seen a proposal from Brantford, but confirmed other communities have enquired about the company. She also said Hamilton will continue to be an option that company officials will consider.

Maple Leaf Foods currently employs about 450 people at four plants in Hamilton.