Hamilton has reinvented itself thanks to the creative industries, with more than 2,500 businesses in film, music, fashion, performing arts and writing and publishing calling the city home. About 11 per cent of the local labour force – 30,000 people – work in the creative sector. Growth is particularly strong in the film, music and fashion.
Hamilton has 9,140 film workers and 901 film businesses, making it the third-largest cluster of film businesses in Canada. It’s also one of the busiest film locations in Ontario, hosting hundreds of productions every year that brought about $70 million in economic benefit in 2021.
Actor and voice artist Christian Potenza moved to Hamilton in 2017. He is copartner in The Infinity Forge, a creative media studio for aspiring and existing performers in a beautiful brick and beam building in the lower city.
“I just love the vibe of Hamilton. There is a buzz and a special feeling to it. So many people are chasing their dreams. There is such incredible talent here,” says Potenza.
“I have never felt so safe and accepted in a town as I have in Hamilton.” The Infinity Forge was able to expand its space and now has plans to host regular events, such as comedy and music nights.
“This building is such a gem. Something like this was only possible for us in Hamilton.”
Hamilton has a long and illustrious history as a musical powerhouse.
More than 7,700 Hamiltonians work in 541 businesses, making it the sixth-largest cluster of music businesses in Canada. Hamilton is also ranked seventh in the world for musicians per capita.
Among them is Mark Sasso, lead singer and guitarist of alternative country trio Elliott BROOD.
Sasso moved to the Gage Park neighbourhood of Hamilton from Toronto 12 years ago. Since then, his bandmates have made the exodus, too. The Juno Award winners have now invested in recording studio space and equipment.
Hamilton is the kind of place where neighbours gather for spontaneous parties and strangers say hello on the street, Sasso said during a keynote address to a forum hosted by Music Cities in September in which he sang the praises of his adopted hometown.
“The city of Hamilton has a really big heart. The people who live here are genuine, salt-of-the-earth people who look out and care for another and their community.”
The city is home to plenty of “dreamers, doers and community builders who invite you in and take you along with them.”
There are well over 500 fashion businesses in Hamilton and 7,500 employees, making it the fifth-largest cluster of fashion businesses across Canada.
Sumit Nagi moved to Hamilton four years ago from Toronto. And for the first time, she was able to move her GOAT Vintage business out of her house. She took up space in the historic creative hub The Cotton Factory where she makes fashionable designs out of previously worn clothing.
She’s been so successful in Hamilton that she just took over bigger studio space.
“In Hamilton, it’s possible to start small and grow your business into a bigger space.”
And it’s possible for Nagi and her husband to raise their young daughter in Dundas, a historic small town within Hamilton where “every street is a postcard,” says Nagi.
Nagi says she is able to work with talented local sewers, though she is always looking for more.
“I love Hamilton. The number of creatives I run into, I’m always astounded by it. There is so much acceptance for creativity and entrepreneurship here in Hamilton.”