I’ve been operating my business in downtown Hamilton for over 10 years. I had only recently moved to a new location in December 2012 as my lease was up and it was time to find someplace that was more efficient and productive.
As it had been over 10 years since I had to set up a fresh office I was a little green about what it took just to open the doors in a new location. My experience was an eye-opener to the possible reason why a lot of companies may not be taking the plunge of going into business downtown.
My first task was set arrange for Hydro. Horizon Utilities, the ONLY Hydro provider in the area, advised me that I was on the hook for $300 for an inspection followed by a $450 deposit. I was ready to accept that, as the property I was moving into had been vacant for over two years. But imagine my shock when the Hydro representative informed me that the fee was now $720 for the deposit and $860 to install the meter and to put a lock box on the building. When I inquired where these fees were coming from, I was informed, “the higher ups decided this”. That made me wonder how these fees were justified, as the meter is the property of Horizon Utilities and is the tool with which they use to determine how much I owe them each month and the lockbox is something that I should be able to pick up at any general hardware store.
To get some answers, I called the Energy Board. The representative at the Energy Board said $500 (of the $860 metering fee) was a justified fee for any location that has been closed for a year as it would be deemed a “new installation”. I was also informed that the lockbox was a “preferred” choice and was priced at $200. Taxes got me to $860. The kicker was that I had to install the lockbox myself.
All in all, the total cost to get the Hydro connected was almost $1,910, before the first kilowatt flowed.
By the time I needed to call the gas company, I was, of course, deeply concerned on how much it would cost to just connect it. Are you ready for this … The gas bill was quoted at $38 and a $250 deposit! This is a private company governed by the same energy board as the Horizon Utilities. And, to really blow my socks off, they turned on my furnace for this price.
Of course I went through a few other challenges in trying to get my phone hooked up but nothing compared to what it cost just to get the Hydro connected. This is a government regulated and municipally owned monopoly. As small business operators we struggle every day to stay in operation. With Hamilton claiming to want to build the small business sector in downtown they really need to think about the cost to simply open the doors and turn on the lights. My total cost to move into my new office cost thousands of dollars before I had made my first sale.
This is not to discourage small businesses from opening up. We all need to understand why these fee’s are determined by tariffs; but let’s not penalize small businesses with excessive fees.
Adam Oldfield is the president of FPM marketing and design a full-service online marketing agency and consults small business in marketing and strategy planning with head office in Hamilton and locations through the USA and Ontario.