Anticipation for the currently-expanding Alberni Valley Regional Airport is growing, according to economic development manager Pat Deakin.
“We have heard a few businesses that were wondering if we would actually get to the point of getting the airport extension done are excited that we are progressing,” said Deakin.
The airport expansion proved to be a controversial subject in the Valley—many were vocal that they thought it was being shoved through and would really only benefit Coulson.
But when the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District went through an alternate approval process last August, the voters authorized them to borrow up to $6 million to fund the expansion. In the spring of 2016, the ACRD board voted to award the $4.2 million airport expansion contract to Bowerman Excavating.
With the expansion underway and expected to be completed in the fall, Deakin said that target markets for the airport are being developed.
“We’re not only developing but beginning to pursue target markets,” he said.
The first place Deakin is looking is anything that would play well with the Coulson Aviation firefighting business at the airport.
“The first place we’re looking is any business that would complement what the Coulson Group are doing on the firefighting side of things,” he said.
Deakin is also looking at companies for whom location isn’t important but cutting costs and increasing profits is.
“The second would be aerospace or air transport companies that are operating in a much higher cost area. Because everybody is looking to cut costs and increase revenues, we’re looking to those companies where we think we can help them find a sweet spot,” he said.
“It’s not just the airport, it’s housing for their employees and that kind of thing.”
Increasing the variety and size of planes that can land at the AVRA is also key to attracting non-aerospace business to the area.
According to Deakin, a national sporting organization is looking to the Alberni Valley as a possible training site for their athletes. Having the ability to fly in and out of town would be an asset.
“It’s definitely still a strong possibility,” he said, but couldn’t comment further at this time.