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Region needs to get behind Villeneuve airport

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 06:00 am

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In 2011, the Springbank Airport just outside of Calgary was the twelfth busiest airport in Canada by total aircraft movements. Thatís an impressive statistic, considering the list, which is headed by Torontoís Pearson International and includes Vancouver International and Montrealís Pierre Elliott Trudeau International.

Just how many aircraft movements does it take to be ranked twelfth? A staggering 133,208. Springbank is widely considered a successful blueprint for proponents of the fledgling Villeneuve Airport. If Villeneuve is to be even half as successful as Springbank, the region, including the City of St. Albert and Sturgeon County, better be ready.

A comprehensive study on the economic impact of Springbank Airport was done in 2007, and it reveals that the total economic impact for Springbank amounted to just over $122 million. The report also cites the airportís importance as a ďcritical business attractor to Springbank,Ē due in large part to corporate aircraft movements, which are vital to a number of local oil and gas and agricultural firms. It is also home to the Calgary Flying Club, which has in excess of 600 members, and it also serves as a flight training centre.

As noted in a recent article in the Gazette, Villeneuve is positioned much like Springbank was when it was conceived by Transport Canada in 1971. Transport Canada was looking for a solution to the growing congestion problem at the Calgary International Airport. Today, itís a hub for smaller general aviation aircraft and itís a boon to the Calgary region.

With Edmontonís City Centre Airport expected closure next year, it is quite conceivable that Villeneuve will grow from housing 100 airplanes to 300 or more. If it triples in size, imagine what the economic impact to the region will be. Today, Villeneuve generates about $31 million in economic activity a year. If it grows, as some predict, that number could very easily top $100 million.

Plans are in the works to make Villeneuve more functional, should the project evolve the way its backers predict. The creation of a stormwater management system and sanitary services will hopefully begin in 2016. Construction of 100-plus business lots is expected to finish by the end of the decade, and one of its two runways is currently being expanded from 3,500 to 5,000 feet.

However, if Villeneuve is truly going to reach its full potential like its Springbank cousin, it is going to need help Ė political help. As has been reported in the Gazette and other regional media, the Capital Region Board is an awkward political behemoth that could impede Villeneuveís growth. The CRB is supposed to work together for the economic benefit of the region. But thatís not always the case. The Villeneuve Airport expansion has already been through the CRB wringer once when it shot down the Villeneuve area structure plan. The rationale? The proposal didnít follow the rule of spending money to improve current growth areas in the capital region Ė doublespeak for political interference.

Our municipal politicians need to push Villeneuve past the goal line if the region is going to realize the tremendous economic benefit that awaits. The project is a no-brainer, but in the world of politics, thereís no such thing.


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