Red Deer Regional Airport’s 200 acres of airside land sets it apart from rivals, said CEO Graham Ingham.
“There is literally no airport real estate like this available in Canada. A lot of the airside real estate has been developed already,” said Ingham at the airport authority’s annual public meeting on Wednesday.
“So this is a really, really good opportunity for us to capitalize on this.
“This, to a large extent, is the future of the airport. This is where a lot of the growth is going to come from, whether it be cargo, aircraft maintenance, aircraft manufacturing, those types of things.”
Developing 140 acres would lead to $2 to $2.5 million in annual revenue for the airport and generate more than $5 million in taxes along with hundreds of jobs.
Key to realizing that ambition is completing a second access to the airport. That project is now happening after the province provided $30 million in funding in the last provincial budget. The new route will link Airport Drive with Range Road 374 to the north linking with C&E Trail.
Design and engineering work is expected to take place this year with construction beginning next spring. It will take about two to three years to complete.
Ingham said the airport improvements are all designed to transform it into a transportation hub and become a major economic driver for the area. It will also help the City of Red Deer achieve its goal of being recognized as the top major event destination among mid-sized Canadian cities by 2030.
“It makes it a whole lot easier if you’ve got a thriving airport that has access to passenger service and those type of things,” he said.
The goal is also to make the airport — which receives operating funding help from City of Red Deer and Red Deer County — to stand on its own financial feet.
A key strategy is to market the airport as an alternative to Edmonton and Calgary, which have two of the more expensive airports in the country.
“We’re not trying to be Edmonton or Calgary. What we are trying to do is become a low-cost alternative.”
Meanwhile, a request for proposals for an expanded terminal able to accommodate 189 passengers — the capacity of a 737-800 aircraft — will close next week.
It is expected construction will begin on the $3 million project by the end of the summer for a September 2024 opening date.
Ingham said ultra-low-cost carriers remain interested in a Red Deer stop. But the terminal has to come first before they will commit.