History and pride: How an international firm found home in Hamilton

 

An international firm has found a home for their North American HQ right here in Hamilton.

Portland Fuel, a UK-based fuel trading firm, has set up shop in downtown Hamilton in the iconic CIBC building at 21 King St. W.

The company's Director of Operations, Jon Rosenthal, said that while the decision to open an office in Hamilton was in large part strategic, given that many of their Canadian clients are located in the GTHA, they also visited the city and were drawn to its character.

"People here are proud to be Hamiltonians and we want to be part of that," Rosenthal told InTheHammer. "We were drawn to the industrial history of the city."

Toronto, Rosenthal said, was considered for a short time for their HQ but they ultimately felt that downtown Toronto was not the right "image" for their company.

"Hamilton just had this energy," Rosenthal said. "[There are] so many forward-thinking businesses thriving in the city."

Rosenthal, who moved to the area earlier this year, said he's impressed by what he sees in Hamilton so far.

"[Hamilton] feels like a place that's always striving to improve," he said. "It's everything I imagined it would be and more."

You might be asking yourself: ‘Why is a fuel company setting up shop in Hamilton when all the oil is out West?’

Well, they're not that kind of fuel company. In fact, our proximity to industry, transit growth and the U.S. makes Hamilton the ideal location for a company that offers the unique services Portland does.

In fact, they may be the only company in Canada that offers some of them to small and medium-sized companies.

Portland started out in York just a little over 10 years ago under the leadership of former BP executive, James Spencer, who was offering businesses at that time fuel price protection services.

The company has expanded their services in the last decade, but this service is the company's bread and butter and gives businesses that rely heavily on fuel — ie: trucking, transit etc — protection from the volatility of the fuel markets by setting a fixed rate for the commodity.

"We help customers lock in the wholesale price of fuel," Rosenthal said, explaining that businesses can better budget for their year if they have a set fuel cost to work with.

The company also offers extensive analytics to help companies purchase the right fuel products and review their practices to figure out "where and how savings can be made and how to generate efficiencies," Rosenthal said.

"We understand the 'smoke-and-mirrors' tactics that the oil companies employ," he said, adding that part of their service is helping people who don't come from a background in oil and gas navigate that.

In the coming years, as their services in Canada grow, Rosenthal said that they will be looking to recruit talent locally for their operations. In fact, he said their Hamilton HQ's proximity to McMaster and Mohawk was a big draw for the company.

"We offer an extensive training program and we recruit people who are leaving college or university," he said.

The training program exposes potential Portland employees to all aspects of the business for six-month intervals over three years. Trainees are taught the ins and outs of the company's various departments.

"We're looking to replicate that here in Hamilton," Rosenthal said.

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