From the skies to space: Report on relaunching Sarnia's airport
The first steps to revitalize the commercially idled Chris Hadfield airport in Sarnia have been passed by city council.
A report by the Sarnia Airport Action Group (SAAG) was accepted Monday.
It calls for interim steps to immediately attract commercial flights, which Air Canada abandoned - permanently - in 2020.
A longer-term plan would see more flights and the creation of an air & space centre. It would also be in the name of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a native of the city.
All stages involve financial support from Sarnia and the County of Lambton, but just how much money will be needed was not discussed.
However, if investments are made, the action group contends the airport could generate nearly half-a-million dollars a year.
Sarnia Councillor Margaret Bird believes it is a gamble the city must take to attract large industries, “Most corporations, the first thing they ask is, ‘Where can I park the corporate jet?'"
But Bird says Sarnia can no longer take on the airport alone, “It requires everybody to be on board. It requires tourism. It requires the chamber. It requires everybody out there to really promote this and promote it well.”
If the final phase is put in place, the airport would be operated by a municipal services company with a CEO and Board of Directors.
The SAAG predicts phase three would increase passenger volumes to as high as 30,000 per year.
In addition, Tom Strifler, a SAAG member, predicts spinoff jobs and a $20-million injection into the local economy.
“So you can see significant GDP impact for the region, as well as broad employment impacts for the region. So you get to a position where you can cover all your operating and capital expenses and create a cash surplus approaching a half-million dollars a year.”
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who also sits on a provincial airport committee, says his city’s airport and others must develop a strategy to get citizens to value flying.
He says London’s airport is an example of a promotional effort that brought about expansion and public support.
Still, some Sarnia councillors wonder if it would work there.
Councillor David Boushy says he’s not sure if Sarnia residents, now used to commuting to London and Toronto by car, will ever opt for the runway again.
“They use to travel quite a bit in the airplane. I don’t think they do now.”
The next step in the plan is to gain county support and get at least one commercial airline to land there again.
A city administrator hinted the latter discussion was underway during the council session.
Recently Sarnia’s airport received $1.9 million in federal funding for ‘critical upgrades’ including a new hangar.