By Brian Hartz
Feb. 23, 2010 – These are halcyon days for Ontario's Steel City. It didn't become the new home of the Phoenix Coyotes after Jim Balsillie's failed bid last year to buy and move the troubled NHL franchise there, but Hamilton, Ont., is in the spotlight thanks to Canada Bread and Woody Harrelson's new film, "Defendor."
Canada Bread announced last week that it had reached an agreement with the city to build a new $100 million, 375,000-square-foot plant that will become the country's largest commercial baking facility. Canada Bread already has a strong presence in Hamilton, where it employs 340 people at its Fresh Bakery and Olivieri pasta facilities. The investment in the new bakery will support up to 300 jobs with an additional 31 hourly positions being created on a seasonal basis.
For those unfamiliar with Harrelson's latest movie, it's not only shot, but also set in The Hammer. The filmmakers have praised the city's "gritty" urban realism as a superb backdrop for their tale.
We hear a lot about Canadian cities being used as stand-ins for other metropolises (Toronto and Vancouver are prime examples) due to tax credits, but rarely is a blue-collar town like Hamilton celebrated on the silver screen. I remember an Edward Norton movie from a few years ago, "The Score," which was filmed and very much set in Montreal, but it was largely forgettable apart from a cameo by Marlon Brando that turned out to be the legendary actor's final appearance on screen. "Defendor," on the other hand, is getting some rave reviews, and coupled with the new Canada Bread bakery, it should make 2010 Hamilton's time to shine.
Well done to the city and its business leaders in putting Steeltown's best foot forward and attracting such significant investment.