Thursday November 27, 2014

Chamber wants City action at airport

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The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce has concerns about how the City is operating its airport, and they took those concerns to the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday.

“For the past few years, the Board of Directors of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce has listed the development of the Yorkton Airport as a priority for the Chamber. As such, the Chamber has taken a keen interest in the work of the Yorkton Airport Authority, applauding its efforts to develop short term and long term plans for the airport; securing funding for infrastructure improvements; and for generally increasing the community’s awareness of the importance of the Airport to both the economy of the city and to that of the entire region,” Chamber manager Juanita Polegi told Council.

Polegi said the Chamber sees the airport as an important aspect of the city’s transportation options.

“The Yorkton Regional Airport has great potential,” she said.

But there are concerns as well.

“The Chamber is, however, becoming increasingly concerned that the potential will not be realized if changes are not soon made to the way in which the Airport is managed and operated,” said Polegi.

As a result of their concerns the Chamber has done some investigating of what other airports do to be successful.

“In 2012 and again in 2014, the Chamber studied other airports including Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster and Brandon,” said Polegi.

As a result of the research Polegi said the Chamber had a number of recommendations for Council “which has now assumed control of the Airport Authority.”

“Hire a CEO! As per the letter to Council June 19, 2013, the Chamber is of the opinion that a CEO can implement the plans developed by the former Airport Authority and begin to generate revenue for the Airport. A dedicated full-time CEO can ensure management of the Airport is a top priority,” began Polegi.

The Chamber also had a number of recommendations focused on increasing revenues from the airport.

“Increase the fuel surcharge,” said Polegi, explaining the present rate of $0.025/litre is low. Comparable rates are $0.03/litre to $0.05/litre.

“For every 300,000 litres of fuel sold at the Yorkton Airport, that’s about$1500 in revenue.”

The Chamber also suggested the YAA “Implement Landing or Terminal Fees for all commercial carriers. The industry norm seems to be that Landing or Terminal fees are based on the number of seats in a carrier or the weight of the carrier. Assuming 50 per cent of those carriers have eight seats or more, at $10 per carrier that equates to $28,000.”

“Implement an Enplaning and Deplaning Fee. At $5 per person enplaning and $5 per person deplaning assuming 1000 people per year that’s another $10,000 in revenue,” continued Polegi.

Development also needs to take place at the airport, said Polegi.

“And finally, begin development at the Airport by leasing property. Development must follow a plan. Reviewing and then implementing the Airport Development Plan commissioned by the Yorkton Airport Authority in 2010, is a logical start,” she said.

Polegi concluded by saying the Chamber believes action must be immediate to secure the airport’s future.

“The Chamber is deeply concerned that if Council does not act upon these recommendations, the opportunity to develop and grow the Airport will slip away,” she said.

“Urgent action is required.”

Councillor Larry Pearen said he had sat on the YAA for a number of years, and of course remains there with all of Council now. With that background he said “there are some valuable points” in what Polegi presented.

“I echo Councillor Pearen’s words,” offered Coun. James Wilson, adding it is said “money arrives in planes.”

Wilson did question how many airports researched by the Chamber had a CEO, and what that cost would be?

“I did not ask about costs,” replied Polegi, who added Lloydminster is hiring a general manager, and Medicine Hat and Brandon have airport CEOs “employed by the City.”

The Chamber of Commerce recommendations were referred by Council to the YAA (Mayor and Council) for consideration.

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