Though Vancouver is a day’s drive away from Cranbrook, that distance turns into a stones throw when you factor in the Canadian Rockies International Airport.
With that in mind, a representative from the Vancouver Airport Authority delivered a keynote address to members of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce to tout the importance of relationships between YVR and airports around the rest of the province.
“YVR and Cranbrook have a lot in common if you think about it,” said Steve Michoulas, director of legal services for the Vancouver Airport Authority. “We’re both important hubs. As hub for mining, forestry, agriculture, manufacturing and transportation with the newly expanded international airport, Cranbrook’s location is at the epicentre of economic opportunities, connecting the various regions and economies of B.C.
“Like Cranbrook, YVR is a gateway hub in it’s own way…While we both have the advantage of lucky geography, we recognize that it is critical to find other opportunities for growth and development.”
In terms of passenger traffic at YVR facilities, it was a record year in 2014, which saw 19 million passengers, an increase of one million from the year before. On average, on a busy August day, that means 70,000 people with 90,000 bags.
“As we climb to the top of our size category and surpass our 20 million passenger mark, we’re going to have to keep up this level of achievement,” Michoulas said, “because YVR will not only be competing bigger airports…but will also be competing for passengers, market share, growths and jobs all of which will also help the businesses and people in Cranbrook.”
Michoulas used the agriculture industry in the Okanagan as a powerful example of how YVR helps in generating economic activity outside Vancouver.
“The airport plays a key role in the supply chain that connects B.C. fruit to global markets,” Michoulas said. “In fact, the B.C. cherry leaves the tree first thing in the morning and arrives on a table in Hong Kong the next day.
“From tree to table in 24 hours.”
That economic activity generated $10 million last year, and is expected to double this year, he added.
“And what about Cranbrook? What opportunities exist here that can follow a similar path?” asked Michoulas.
Before taking the podium, local representatives from the Canadian Rockies International Airport gave a quick update on their own operations.
Krystal Porter, the financial administrator for YXC, noted that passengers totalled just shy of 129,000—which is an increase of 10 per cent over 2013—and are trending upward.
Jamie Roche, Superintendent of Operations noted that because of the increase in passenger traffic, there are plans in the works to expand the parking lot, which tends to overflow into a field adjacent to the facility.
Just like YVR operations, Roche noted that the airport receives no federal funding or subsidies from local municipal governments.
“One thing that people often don’t realize when I talk to them is that the City of Cranbrook is able to have that current capacity at the airport without the use of any municipal tax dollars,” Roche said. “All the expenses associated with the airport, which there are a lot of, are offset and covered by revenues brought in by our operations.
“The taxpayer in Cranbrook has this perfect asset for no cost on an annual basis with the added benefit that the asset is a significant economic generator.”
Roche reported that there are roughly 80 people who work at the airport and are employed by 13 separate businesses.