Checking in with Downtown

Part 4

The Unique Business Mix of Downtown

Those of us who live, work and visit downtown know all that the area has to offer, but what we don’t always realize is the unique business mix of downtown Hamilton. Pockets of the lower city like James St., Locke St., and Ottawa St. can feel like shopping districts, but when it comes to the Downtown Hamilton BIA area much of our business mix is accounted for by professional services – banking, insurance, lawyers, accountants, business services, etc. While this may seem like a given as we’ve become accustomed to our downtown, in the BIA world it is quite unique.

For those who don’t fully know what a BIA (Business Improvement Area) is or what we do, in a nutshell, BIAs are approved by a municipal council to represent a geographically designated area and work towards the improvement and promotion of these areas. This is done through beautification efforts including public art, planters, banners, and other projects along with events and through the promotion of the area as a whole. BIAs can also be a great resource for businesses by helping to find the best avenues for addressing issues. The first BIA came to be right here in Ontario (Bloor West Village in Toronto) and they can now be found across the province, country, and even worldwide in different forms. The traditional structure of BIAs has largely been ‘main streets’ in communities that often consist of small, storefront businesses. The business mix in these areas is typically largely retail, which is where downtown Hamilton differs.  

The Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area is made up of a whopping 75% professional services. This is not to say that we do not have storefront businesses of course, just that many of our retailers are unique, destination shops. The large number of professional services concentrated downtown makes the area a perfect hub for businesses and is why many start-up businesses begin in a small office or co-working spaces and are eventually able to grow into a larger space. Having this mixture of small, medium, and even larger sized businesses concentrated in downtown also creates a great network of employees that support our destination retail and restaurants on their breaks or after work.

Supporting and encouraging local business is always the focus of BIAs, but with the past few years of restrictions weighing heavy on businesses, it has been at the forefront of all of our minds. While supporting professional services is of course not as simple as stopping in for a bite to eat or to browse a shop, it is a great opportunity to think about your local options when it comes to the services you may need. Whether it’s insurance, investing, legal aid or a host of additional services you’re looking for, having local providers is great for not only supporting business but for clearing up questions or concerns more easily. As a business owner, having a network of local suppliers or service providers can in many ways also help you streamline more of your processes. You can always find all of our businesses online through our directory here.

While professional services in many cases are not ground-floor businesses in the way that restaurants and retail shops are downtown, they are an important and significant part of our business mix. Without them, we would not have the resources that we do as readily available or the additional support for the downtown community as a whole. The mix of businesses in downtown Hamilton helps our area continue to grow and improve, and it serves as a great example for those wishing to make the leap and locate their business here as well.

If you are a Downtown Hamilton BIA member business and would like to be featured in a blog post, please email Suzi Ozer at



The Downtown Update is the e-newsletter sent by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area to keep both members of the BIA and interested supporters of Downtown up-to-date with activities and issues in the core of our community.