WSP calls Pembroke airport "a great asset" and cites military relationship as a strength
Pembroke and Area Airport
The Pembroke and Area Airport has received a glowing report from consulting firm WSP.
The report on the value and potential of the facility was presented on Feb. 1 at the airport.
Joe MacKay, senior project director - aviation for WSP, explained their findings on a direction from the Pembroke and Area Airport Commission to delve into the value of the facility, and whether it was worth further investment by the owners. The 40 minute presentation pointed out many benefits of the airport and concluded with business development opportunities for the future.
"This is a great asset you have here," said MacKay. "And, it has a regional benefit too."
MacKay immediately pointed out the relationship with Garrison Petawawa, Canada's largest military base and a strong supporter of the airport. While Garrison Petawawa is the airport's largest user, accounting for one-quarter of the movements there, MacKay saw that relationship as one that illustrated the overall role the airport plays in the community.
"The Garrison Petawawa contribution is quite significant in Renfrew County," said Mackay. "The military presence here is crucial to communities. The airport has a nice relationship in that it supports Garrison Petawawa's activities, and Garrison Petawawa supports communities."
Garrison Petawawa's contribution was nearly 25 per cent of the revenues for the airport already, and a new agreement that is on the way allows for a user fee increase with a cost of living automatic increase annually. Adam Martin, senior airport planner, who accompanied MacKay in the presentation, also weighed in on the military connection.
"You have a major user here with the Canadian Forces," said Martin. "I can list 50 airports that would love to have them in their community."
Another example of the airport supporting communities was referenced with being able to accommodate Ornge, the air ambulance provider for Ontario. MacKay note that the airport provides an alternate landing for Ornge - something they need to have before embarking on a flight, and noted it was "important to rural hospitals."
On the issue of fiscal management, WSP noted that Pembroke is operating at about one-quarter the funding that comparable airports receive. He referenced the per capita contribution was $1.34 for Pembroke, and the closest he could find of a relatively comparable airport was $6.54 per capita. He noted in his municipality of Kitchener-Waterloo, the per capita contribution was round $10.00.
"The runway is like a mile of road," said MacKay. "Roads don't generate income, but they are necessary for others to succeed. People don't question the utility of the road because they see it every day. But they don't see the airport every day."
Adam Martin,, addressed the airport's decision to invest the 1995 payout from Transport Canada when the federal government divested itself of all small airports.
The Pembroke & Area Airport Commission invested that $400,000 payout and has used it as a borrowing arm to purchase the former Pem-Air hangar and most recently the solar project. That investment is still intact.
"I don't know of any airport that still has that Transport Canada payout," said Martin. "You have been able to do incredibly well with funding far below comparable airports."
WSP also addressed how the commission is structured and how the members make decisions but noted the current group has difficulty coming to agreement on the future of the airport because some members struggle to understand the value of the facility. MacKay said it is important that everyone is an advocate for the airport.
The differing opinions on the airport's value were also listed as a weakness for the airport.
WSP applauded the launch of Project Runway, the fundraising campaign to repave the runway at the airport and noted it had raised $116,000 to date.
Concluding, MacKay touched on the economic impact of the airport which was reported in 2015 as being $920,000. He and Martin both felt that number was "substantially higher" now, and suggested a new study to determine how much more that impact would be.
Laurentian Valley mayor, Steve Bennett, thanked WSP for its report and agreed that the ommission needs to be committed to moving the facility forward.
"We have to be all in and move as a united front with everyone on board in a positive way," said Bennett. "The economic impact is huge here."