Hamilton is currently marketing itself a prime business centre, given its proximity to border crossings and international airports, and the number of Hamilton small business grants certainly don't hurt!
In this complete guide we cover 26 programs that are available specifically for Hamilton entrepreneurs.
Hamilton Business Incentives
New Hamilton Business Incentives for 2021
Hamilton Business Grants
Business owners or businesses with permission from their landlords that are also members of any of Hamilton’s 13 BIAs can participate in this program that offers grant funding to improve your façade, your interior space—to a limited extent—and accessibility.
Get up to $10,000 if your storefront is less than 25 feet and up to $400/linear foot, or $20,000, if your storefront is larger than 25 feet. Businesses on a corner lot could get up to $25,000. There’s even a bonus of $10,000 if you place an artistic piece on your property or artfully design your façade!
This is, however, a matching grant, so you’ll have to be prepared to put some money out yourself. If you’re ready to make some improvements, just download and submit the application form.
Plus—Hamilton has eliminated the deadlines for all grant applications! So go ahead, put that application in. If you’d like to know more, download the program guidelines or get in touch with the program.
Sorry, this grant program is only for business owners (or tenants with permission) in Downtown Hamilton, Community Downtowns, and the Mount Hope/Airport Gateway or any of the commercial corridors as identified in the Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Project Area.
It’s much the same as the above program in that it’s designed to encourage façade improvements, interior space rehabilitation, and accessibility. The funding is also similar. It too is a 50/50 matching funds program that offers $10,000/property and an extra $2,500 for those with corner lots.
This program too is for only the Downtown Hamilton, Community Downtowns, the Mount Hope/Airport Gateway areas, plus those designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
It’s designed to encourage development and redevelopment in these areas, resulting in increased traffic and revenue. Funding comes in the form of 5-year grant that will cover a to-be-determined portion of the tax increase resulting from the development or improvement of a property. The first year will cover no more than 100%, the second year no more than 80%, and no more than 60% in year 3, 40% in year 4, and 20% in year 5.
Help Hamilton reduce office vacancy rates and attract more office tenants by participating in this grant program that will help you fund improvements to your business within the Downtown Hamilton, Community Downtowns,
the Mount Hope/Airport Gateway BIA areas or the commercial corridors along Barton Street, east of the Barton Village BIA, and along Kenilworth Avenue North as identified in the Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Project Area Bylaw.
You can even use it to expand your business, so give it a shot. You could get up to $450,000 if you do! Just download the application form and send it in after you’ve filled it out.
Urban revitalization and regeneration are a top priority for the City of Hamilton, and as such, they offer this heritage property grant to achieve that goal.
The grant is open to any property owner within an active Hamilton BIA area or designated under Parts IV or V of the Ontario Heritage Act within the lower city between Highway 403 and the Red Hill Valley Parkway used for commercial, institutional, industrial, or multi-residential purposes.
The catch, however, is that only properties that need structural or stability work to conserve and restore heritage features and/or need heritage studies, reports, and/or assessments for properties designated under Parts IV or V of the Ontario Heritage Act will qualify.
While the work will also have to conform to the Downtown Hamilton Secondary Plan and other city policies and guidelines, if this grant program is of interest to you, apply by downloading and submitting the completed application form to the program.
Don’t quite qualify for the above Hamilton Heritage Property Grant Program? Don’t worry, because heritage restoration is so important to the City that they’ve created this grant designed to help owners who don’t qualify for the heritage property grant.
As long as you’re at least designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, this program will still give you between $1,000 to $5,000 to restore and conserve the heritage features of your property. Keep in mind this is a matching grant program, so be ready to contribute the same amount to the project.
As with the other municipal grant programs, just download, fill out, and send in the application form to get your money. Use their program guidelines to help you through the process and learn more about the program, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with the program if you have questions.
Here’s yet another grant program aimed at improving the community, this one for the Barton Village BIA area, the Barton and Kenilworth commercial corridors, and properties that front Barton Street between James Street North and Victoria Avenue North.
The idea is to enhance the community’s appeal by building new or upgrading the commercial, multi-residential, or institutional buildings in the area, which only benefits you as a business owner in two ways: first by not having to pay as much out of pocket for the work you need done and by attracting more business to your area.
You can also use this grant to improve the maintenance, functionality, viability, accessibility, and aesthetics of your existing building. Read more of the details in the downloadable program description, and get help through the application process and with the program requirements with their program guidelines. If neither of those help you, get in touch with the program.
To apply, simply download, complete, and submit the application form. They’ll do the rest!
As with many cities and communities throughout Ontario, brownfield development is an important component of both city development and environmental restoration.
In this vein, the City of Hamilton has put together a comprehensive incentive program that includes a variety of financial programs designed to encourage the redevelopment of brownfield sites.
Having just one department to administer every component of the program allows the City to offer guidance, information, and access to regulatory and planning contacts all in one place. Therefore, you’ll find this program includes the Study Grant, the Redevelopment Grant, Education Tax Assistance, The Hamilton Downtown/West Harbourfront Remediation Loan Program, and additional nonfinancial components.
The Study Grant will give you up to $20,000 (excluding HST) to a maximum of 2 studies and $35,000 (excluding HST) per project to conduct a Phase 2 and/or a Phase 3 Environmental Site Assessment, whatever is needed, when you apply.
The Redevelopment Grant is a grant equalling 80% of the property tax increase you see as a result of developing a brownfield site for 10 years. They’ll pay you every year, but you won’t start receiving it until after you apply and after you see an increase in your property taxes.
In an identical fashion, the Education Tax Assistance incentive offers property owners a freeze or cancellation of part of the educational tax portion on a brownfield property when they remediate and redevelop it. You’ll see this freeze or cancellation for 3 years after you complete the project, and it’s applied automatically to your taxes.
Remediate and redevelop a property in Downtown Hamilton or the West Harbourfront for commercial (or residential) purposes and the Hamilton Downtown/West Harbourfront Remediation Loan Program will offer you a low interest loan equal to 80% of the cost of remediation up to $400,000 per property/project. This program is meant to be a stopgap until you receive your Redevelopment Grant or the Hamilton Tax Increment Grant, so while you will have to pay the loan back, at least the money isn’t coming out of your pocket in the end.
For more information on any of these programs, feel free to get in touch with the program either via email or phone at 905-546-2424, ext. 2359.
Environmental sustainability is also to integral to Hamilton’s core policies, and as such, they’ve put together this grant program that will give you a grant equal to 75% or less of the increase you see on your city property tax as a result of attaining LEED certification.
This is a grant you’ll continue receiving for 5 years, so think about LEED certification because you’ll also benefit from lower energy bills. The grant is meant to ease the cost of construction, consultation, energy modelling, and certification fees, but it is a matching grant program, so you’ll have to contribute the same amount.
If you’ve decided to head in this direction with your business, just download and complete the application form, then submit it to the program. If you’d like more details, read through the program description or get in touch with the program.
Investments & Loans for Hamilton Businesses
Do you have a property anywhere in the Hamilton area designated under Parts IV or V of the Ontario Heritage Act? If this is you, give this 0% loan a shot to restore or conserve the heritage features of your building, thereby improving the attractiveness of your business.
You could borrow up to $50,000 to spruce up those designated heritage features and get 10 years to pay it back in the usual monthly fashion. Alternatively, you also have the choice of paying it back in yearly installments equal to 10% of the amount owing for 4 years. The catch here is that you will end up with a balloon payment at the end.
Just download, fill out, and send in the application form if you’re interested in restoring your building. You can find more information about the program in the application form itself, or you can contact the program.
Tax Credits/Rebates for Hamilton Businesses
Oftentimes, renovating, redeveloping, or building new can be a cost-effective way to begin or grow your business. Should you choose to go this route, make sure you choose a property in the Barton Village BIA, the Barton and Kenilworth commercial corridors, or one that fronts Barton Street between James Street North and Victoria Avenue North.
If you do, you’ll be entitled to a reduction of the increase of your municipal property tax for 9 years. Improvements to any property always result in increased taxes, and this will help shelter you from that, thus saving you money.
The amount of the reduction you see will be based on the difference between your pre- and post-assessments and will equal no more than 100% of the increase in years 1 to 5, 80% in year 6, 60% in year 7, 40% in year 8, and 20% in year 9.
Take a look at the program guidelines before you get started on your project, but when you’re ready, download and submit the application form to take advantage of this program. And feel free to contact the program if you have questions.
We all know there are fees for everything, especially when it comes to building and renovating. But there’s good news is if you’re planning a project like this in the Barton Village Business Improvement Area, the Barton/Kenilworth Commercial Corridors, or properties that front Barton Street between James Street North and Victoria Avenue North.
If this is the case, when you download and send in the application form, the City could rebate both the Planning Fee and the Building Fee in an amount to be determined depending on the relevant information. Once approved, you’ll get your rebate when you complete the project and pass your final inspection.
If you need more information before embarking on your project, download and read through the finer details of the project description, and if that doesn’t help, call the program at 905-546-2424, ext. 2755.
Utility Grants/Rebates for Hamilton Businesses
It may seem like a small thing, but you could take the money you save with more efficient lighting and putting it into growing your business.
And with this program, you’ll even get $2,000 to do that. Now that’s an incentive, having someone give you money so you can save money!
If you’re a small business in Hamilton with 50 employees or less and haven’t participated in the program before, consider doing so now because you qualify. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a smaller hydro bill?
Plus it’s easy to do. Just contact the program, and they’ll tell you everything you need to send them. Then they’ll do an onsite assessment to let you know what your energy-saving options are.
The whole process is so easy, they’ll even take care of the scheduling, installing, and paperwork for you! And in the fine print you’ll find that if your project requires more than $2,000 to complete, they may even offer additional financial incentives.
So why wait? Click here to get started.
Alectra Utilities offers this particular program, but it’s actually Save on Energy through the Independent Electricity System Operator that administers this energy-efficiency program.
Use this program to make those efficiency changes to your business that perhaps you’ve been putting off because it’s too expensive or just not a priority. It can be now with this financial incentive program, and you’ll save money every year after without doing anything!
You’ve got 2 options with this program. You can make smaller changes to improve your energy efficiency with the prescriptive track or go all in with the custom track and make considerable changes and really reduce your environmental footprint.
Use the prescriptive track to change things such as your lighting or lighting controls. Use the custom track to improve your HVAC system or enhance your building envelope’s performance, for example.
The minimum incentive with the prescriptive track is $500, so keep that in mind when choosing your project(s). With the custom track, the incentive amount will depend on the size, type, and number of projects you choose to move forward with, but the minimum is $1,500 and is capped at 50% of project costs.
All Hamilton and area businesses qualify, so all you have to do is download the program requirements and check out the documents, worksheets, and guides that you’ll need and that will help you with the application process. Then when you’re ready, create an account in their Retrofit Portal to apply.
Their FAQs should answer most of your questions, but if you can always contact them via the portal or call their general information line at 1-844-303-5542.
Here’s a new idea to save money! Hire an energy manager. It’s new, yes, and it seems counterintuitive, yes, to spend money to save money. But an energy manager can offer you extensive knowledge and planning skills, all of which will provide you with continuously evolving energy- and money-saving opportunities.
An energy manager will develop an energy-saving strategy for your business and can access all available financial incentives for you. And because this program will pay you $40,000 upfront to hire one, you don’t even have to shell out yourself. The program even offers to pay you up to $150,000/year for this new position.
So now you can do your part to reduce your environmental footprint and your energy costs while paying nothing or next to nothing to do so! Make sure you hire wisely though because the energy manager is beholden to pay-for-performance criteria. Also know that they’ll have to realize at least 10% of their energy-saving targets through projects that have no financial incentive attached.
If you think having an energy manager would be a smart move for your business, just fill out the application form and email it back to the program. If you’re application is accepted, you’ll also have to fill out an Energy Manager Agreement. Take a minute to look through the program details before you begin though. If you have questions, just send them an email.
Revamp your systems and processes with new, energy-efficient ones and realize greater savings and possibly even greater competitiveness with the additional efficiency.
This program offers financial incentives for those businesses who have their sights set on specialized upgrades. Once you’ve determined where your savings opportunities lie and figured out both the potential savings and project costs, put together your business case and send it to the program.
If you’re accepted, you’ll qualify for incentives for an engineering feasibility study, which will determine your current energy usage and any opportunities to both improve that and open up additional incentives. Examples of ways to save energy could include generating electricity from waste energy recovery or redesigning a whole system.
Get yourself some financial incentives while also saving, on average, 6.5% on your hydro bill over many years with this program when you make energy-efficiency improvements.
You can qualify for this one provided you’re not an industrial or manufacturing business, have hourly meter data available for the building for at least 12 months, commit your building for at least 2 years, and have a minimum annual consumption of 1,500,000 kWh/building (or a group of up to 5 buildings aggregated into a single baseline energy model).
Not only could you receive pay-for-performance incentives of $0.04/kWh/year for 2 years, but you could also get a modelling incentive of $1,500 for each enrolled facility, up to a maximum of $15,000, for 10 approved buildings.
You even have the freedom to choose any energy-saving measures you like. To get your money, just complete an annual savings report.
If you’re interested, just fill out and email the Energy Performance Program Agreement and the application form. Don’t forget to include a facility application form for each building and a baseline energy model using their Baseline Energy Model Validation Reports Tool. You can use their daily meter aggregation tool to help you out.
Don’t hesitate to email your questions to the program!
Get yourself both financial incentives and money from saving on your hydro bill when you participate in this program and use it to install this new ventilation system that uses advanced sensors and variable speed controls to ramp up ventilation during busy periods and slow down ventilation during slower ones.
Just give the program a call at 1-844-303-5542 to get started. Just be ready with information about your business. You may find when you call you could also be eligible for additional incentives for lighting, ENERGY STAR freezers, unitary air conditioning, ice machines, or walk-in freezers.
Save money on all your little energy-efficient purchases too when you buy them through Alectra Utilities.
You could save 25%, up to $500, on these items:
- ENERGY STAR certified washer
- ENERGY STAR certified dryer
- ENERGY STAR certified washer/dryer combo
- ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher
- ENERGY STAR certified air purifier/room air cleaner
- ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat
- ENERGY STAR certified room air conditioner
- ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fan
- ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifier
- CEE Tier 3 certified refrigerator and/or refrigerator freezer
- electric-vehicle home charger
- induction stove top
Better yet, you could save up to $1,000 when you buy an ENERGY STAR certified tankless condensing water heater or an ENERGY STAR certified ductless mini-split indoor unit (air-source heat pump).
Just send Alectra Utilities an email or give them a call at 1-833-253-2872 to find out more.
Additional Resources for Hamilton Businesses
Hamilton is rich in Business Improvement Areas. Joining your local BIA can offer not only connections, networking, mentorship, information, training, discounts, and even awards or meeting spaces, but also access to all the Hamilton municipal funding programs mentioned earlier.
There are 13 BIAs throughout Hamilton, so just get in touch with yours to get started:
It boasts that it’s the oldest institution in Hamilton, having been created by Hamilton’s Founding Fathers to lead and encourage the city’s economic growth.
And that’s still true today given all the resources it offers: discounts, networking opportunities and events, advocacy, local market intelligence, help navigating through bureaucracy, and more. They even offer free access to Magnet, a new digital hiring platform.
To learn more about the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce or ask questions, send an email or give them a call at 905-522-1151. To become a member and take advantage of all the resulting benefits, fill out their online contact form.
If you’re looking for laser-focused, small business connections and resources to help you start or grow your business in Hamilton, look no further than the Hamilton Business Centre, your local Small Business Enterprise Centre.
This unassuming little network offers a wealth of programs and resources for entrepreneurs, such as professional advice, youth programs, a business advisory group of experienced business owners who volunteer to help you succeed, the Digital Mainstream Project to help you improve your adoption of technology, and more.
As a bonus, they also offer a Starter Company Plus program designed to help you find your footing and bring your business to life. This program gives start-ups that have been operating for less than a year free business planning, marketing, bookkeeping, and financial management training; mentoring; and potential funding of up to $5,000.
They’re currently reviewing the program but hope to be ready to go again in June 2020, so join their mailing list to be the first to know if you’re a new business and ready to join the Hamilton Business Centre.
And all these extras are in addition to all the other benefits also offered by other Small Business Resource Centres around the province, including information about registrations, licences, regulations, and copyrights; additional professional advice, consultations, and referrals; workshops; and webinars.
Ontario has a multitude of Regional Innovation Centres to help speed up the entrance of your proprietary technology into the marketplace. This allows you to build your business much faster than you ordinarily could and with greater resources.
Hamilton’s RIC is the Innovation Factory, or iF. You don’t have to pay to join, but you do have to meet their stringent criteria, so before you apply, make sure your business plan, your pitch, your financials, and your goals have been fine-tuned so you’re ready for not only approval, but exponential growth.
Unlike BIAs and Small Business Enterprise Centres where you pay a membership fee to join, with an RIC, you compete for membership, so your idea, your abilities, have to be top-notch and full of potential.
While iF won’t give you funding outright to start or grow your business, they do give you everything else you could possibly ask for, including access to investors and pitch competitions.
Even more important than funding to entrepreneurs are things such as training, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities, peer discussion groups, access to information and market intelligence, office or lab space, and more.
At iF, start-ups will also receive professional guidance and support to refine your value proposition, clarify your business model, strategize your business plan, hone your pitch, and familiarize yourself with sales tools with expert training. And that’s not all. You’ll also get legal and IP advice, operational analysis training, and a better understanding of market intelligence, all from professionals who’ve walked this path before you.
For those now growing their business, you’ll get not only all of the above, but also expert consulting services from Executives-in-Residence, professional SWOT analysis, Innovation Days to reenergize your entrepreneurial spirit, and sound financial management advice.
For those looking to apply to be part of the iF team as a start-up, a business ready to grow, or a youth entrepreneur, simply get in touch with them to schedule a meeting. If you’re more interested in the women entrepreneur program, just fill in their online application form and tell them about your company. They’ll get in touch with you to schedule a meeting.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line Hamilton entrepreneurs: there are so many more programs available to help you start, grow, or maintain your business than you may have thought.
From incentives to encourage you to become more energy efficient and save money on your hydro bills, to intensive incubator programs that could explode your business plus give you access to investors, to grants to help you restore that heritage property you love, you’ll find something that works for you at the municipal level.
And before you even begin to wade through the financial incentive programs available only to those business owners in Hamilton, remember to sift through all the available provincial and federal programs too!
But wait. Don’t forget to join your Chamber of Commerce, the Hamilton Business Centre, the Innovation Factory, and your local BIA to add even more tools to your entrepreneur tool belt.
Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe’s background and how he can help your business.