Abbotsford's $30 million airport expansion complete

Dave Holmberg,chair of the Abbotsford Airport Authority, speaks to a large crowd gathered at the airport terminal to celebrate the completion of a $30 million renovation project. - Kevin Mills photo
Dave Holmberg,chair of the Abbotsford Airport Authority, speaks to a large crowd gathered at the airport terminal to celebrate the completion of a $30 million renovation project.
— image credit: Kevin Mills photo

Politicians, dignitaries and travellers came together Friday afternoon to celebrate the completion of the Abbotsford International Airport expansion project.

The $30-million overhaul, financed equally by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Abbotsford Airport Authority, was finished on time and on budget, according to the media release.

Terminal improvements include a redesigned departure lounge, security area, guest check-in counters, tourist information centre and more. Infrastructure improvements include a new 9,600-foot taxiway that parallels the main runway, expansion of the west apron and various surface and lighting projects.

The list of political speakers included Abbotsford Mayor George Peary, MLAs John van Dongen and Michael de Jong and MP Ed Fast.

"These important upgrades ... will increase transportation safety, improve airport efficiency and create local jobs," said Fast

"Partnerships were the key to our success," said Dave Holmberg, chair of the Abbotsford Airport Authority. "And it's only just beginning."

According to Holmberg, the expansion was a huge undertaking, but because of some surprisingly low bids, more work was accomplished.

"We had planned to make all of these improvements over the next five years ... 90 per cent of those have been completed in this one project."

The improvements are key to attracting more business to the airport. Holmberg said a group representing many facets of the aerospace industry recently toured the airport.

"We wanted to show them what we have to offer ... there are all kinds of opportunities for aerospace technology."

And Holmberg knows the money is out there. He pointed to the federal government's commitment to spend billions upgrading military equipment.

"If we can get a little part of that, we truly are on the right step going forward."

Adding more flights is an ongoing process at the local airport and the improvements can only help attract interest.

"We have some encouraging signs from WestJet and others that I can't mention right now."

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said the airport will become "an economic dynamo" for the city and credited the work of local businesses, developers and airport officials.

"This is the real A team, this is the team that makes things happen. This is the team that gets things done."

According to Peary, the federal government spent $4 million building the airport back in the 1940s, the equivalent to $50 million in today's dollars.

Considering the additional $30 million in improvements, he believes the city "has a brand new airport."

And the city wants to capitalize on it.

"We are poised to attract more and more investors to the airport. We have to let them know that land is available and we're open for business," said Peary.

Companies like Chinook Helicopters, which trains pilots from around the world, and Cascade Aerospace, which Peary called "a major tenant and major employer," will help attract more industry opportunities.

One area of concern, that is shared by both Abbotsford and Vancouver airports, is a loss of travelers flying North to South, to U.S. airports, like Bellingham.

Government fees and charges make it difficult to meet prices offered by American counterparts.

Peary said other mayors and airport authority chairs, who are close to the 49th parallel, face similar issues.

"I'd like to lead a delegation to Ottawa" to ask for assistance in managing those fees, said Peary.

"We just want to compete."

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