By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Demand for industrial and warehouse space is at an all-time high across the country, according to a report released by Re/Max Canada in May.
The report laid out how land constraints have created record-high values for industrial/warehouse space in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with many businesses, from food storage to consumer goods, facing expansion issues with limited space in their desired markets.
The Haldimand Press wanted to find out what type of impact this growth could have on the local commercial and industrial real estate markets so we reached out to Nicolas von Bredo, President-Elect of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB), as well as Lidy Romanuk, Manager, Economic Development & Tourism for Haldimand County for their thoughts on the issue.
“The writing is on the wall. Over the years, Burlington, Mississauga, Brampton, all the industrial space has filled up there, said von Bredo. “With the pandemic happening there’s a lot more online ordering… the warehousing and logistics side of things has just exploded. They’re running out of land around Brampton and Mississauga so they’re coming out this way.”
According to RAHB, there have been four sales of industrial or warehouse space in Haldimand County over the last 180 days. While that number may seem low, the county saw zero sales the previous 180 days.
“Haldimand County is growing,” said Romanuk. “Over the past 10 years the County has seen a substantial increase in residential development and with that has come an increase in business development inquiries.”
She confirmed that inquiries for these types of spaces have increased from pre-pandemic levels: “At this time, Haldimand has very little built inventory available.”
While that may be the case currently, the County is preparing for the future. With their recently completed Growth Plan and a series of amendments to phase 1 of their Official Plan, the County is preparing to accommodate up to 30,000 new residents, 12,700 new households, and 11,000 new jobs by 2051.
This need for growth locally is happening while at the same time businesses located in primary markets, like the GTA, are beginning to look outside of their areas as prices and availability issues drive them outward.
“Leases are coming up for renewal, and the new rates that they have to renew at is quite a number higher in terms of percentages,” explained von Bredo. “They’re asking, ‘do we really have to stay in Hamilton or Brantford, or can we move out to an outlying area, get cheaper rent, and still run our business the same way?’ A lot of businesses are able to do that, so that’s why we’ve started seeing, and will probably continue seeing, an uptick in the demand for commercial businesses in outlying areas like Haldimand.”
According to a report in the Toronto Star, some realtors are advising clients to begin searching for a new space up to 18 months before their lease expires to avoid being stuck without a home.
“It takes time to find something, with not that much product out there. In the last couple of years there’s been a lot more super large warehouses than there have been smaller industrial complexes built,” said von Bredo. “For those mid-size businesses that don’t need 80-100 square feet, there’s just less available in the marketplace.”
He said the only thing that might hold back an industrial boom in the Haldimand area is that companies currently see a lack of potential employees, as well as transportation issues, ie. the same things that stopped the Townsend development dead in its tracks 40 years ago.
“Haldimand does have some great infrastructure, at the same time it doesn’t have infrastructure like a 400 series highway running through it three different ways like Brampton or Mississauga does. It all depends on the end user and what their requirements are,” said von Bredo.
Currently, the County is hoping that their growth strategy, which is set to include the industrial lands in Nanticoke, if approved by the Provincial government, will be enough to ensure Nanticoke does not become another Townsend.
“Employment growth across the County and various sectors is key to the County meeting its employment growth targets, and Nanticoke is an important part of that strategy. Should the plan be approved by the Province, it would designate 40% of the total area (1,700 acres) for employment uses, creating up to 11,000 jobs,” said Romanuk.
von Bredo thinks Nanticoke, in theory, could work: “In my personal opinion, I think it works. It’s been industrial land for years, and years, and years, and they haven’t had the opportunity to be able to attract large employers to the area there… there is a demand here in regards to residential affordability.”
Romanuk laid out some of the advantages businesses could look forward to if they locate within Haldimand, including real estate costs, tax rates, and development costs that are “comparatively lower than neighbouring communities,” as well as Haldimand’s ‘strategic’ location within a one to two hour drive to major cities such as Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo.
On the issue of push back from residents of Haldimand who do not want to see Nanticoke, or other new developments in the area proceed, von Bredo said he feels bad for municipal politicians.
“They really want to represent the locals, but at the same time there’s also the bigger picture on the provincial or national level to consider. As the world has become global, one can’t focus on each individual small community on its own anymore… unfortunately it doesn’t all go the way people want it.”
When asked if he thinks rural communities like Haldimand might one day disappear as growth continues unchecked, von Bredo offered, “I think there’s still lots of opportunities for rural communities. The problem is, the rural communities that are closer to the major population hubs, those will have more pressure.”
He concluded, “Go talk to a rural community out in Saskatchewan, they would have no idea what we’re talking about because they’ve never experienced it, and probably never will.”