Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham has ambitious plans for the airport, which he believes is poised to become a major economic driver for the region. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

$120M Lowe’s distribution centre shows airports’ potential

Red Deer Airport hopes to attract its own big developments

A big-box retailer’s announcement that it is building a $120-million distribution centre in Calgary shows the investment airports can attract.

Lowe’s Canada’s 1.2-million-square-foot distribution centre in northeast Calgary joins those built recently by Costco, Walmart and Amazon close to the Calgary airport.

Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham says with almost 200 acres available for development at the local airport, there is plenty of room for those kinds of developments in central Alberta.

“What we’re looking at is something that’s going to bring the same economic benefits. That’s a pretty good opportunity in Calgary, for sure,” said Ingham.

While the airport would welcome a project like Lowe’s, Aviation-related businesses are highest on Ingham’s wish list.

“The reason being is that it affords us other revenue-generating opportunities. If you attract a cargo carrier or something like that, then you’re collecting landing fees, as well as land lease fees as well.

“Ultimately, what we really what to focus on is aviation and aviation-related businesses.”

The Lowe’s deal shows investors remain interested in Alberta, said Ingham.

“I think there are tremendous opportunities,” he said. “And this airport is well positioned.

“We’re not in a position where we have to increase fees at all. We’re in a great spot.

“It’s just a matter of remaining patient and committed to the vision and the strategy, and it will all work out in the end, I’m sure.”

Red Deer airport’s long-term plan is to lengthen and strengthen its main runway to accommodate 737s and similar-sized planes.

Taxiway upgrades, including approach lighting, would also be part of the project, which could cost an estimated $30 million.

“Now we know exactly what we need to do, how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost. In the event we get big opportunity to the size and magnitude of this one in Calgary, we know exactly if we can or can’t support it.”

Ingham said they are not yet moving ahead on the expansion project, but they are tender-ready should the right investor come along.

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