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Doing business on the fly

Sudbury airport spruces up business centre, solicits public feedback for 10-year master plan

Business travellers flying out of the Greater Sudbury Airport now have a more modern, updated space in which to work after the facility’s business centre underwent a facelift earlier this summer.

For years, the airport has dedicated a corner of the airport’s departures lounge to its guests travelling for business, setting up some desks and chairs for those who want or need to get some work done while in transit.

But after years of use, the existing infrastructure was worn out and needed an update, so the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce proposed a refurbishment.

“We came up with the idea that if we had more of a business centre it would certainly appeal to a lot of travellers,” said Debbi Nicholson, president and CEO of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.

“It would give a different focus and a different look to that part of the airport and the security lounge at the airport, and would provide a place and an opportunity for travellers to be able to do some work while they're waiting for their flight.”

The chamber approached Querney’s Office Plus, a local office supply store, and struck up a partnership to supply the furniture and update it as needed.

“I think it was a great fit for us,” Nicholson said. “We are the business association in the community, so it fits with our focus and our brand.”

There is now room for four desks and chairs, sleek and modern outfits that each come equipped with a personal light and plug-in, enabling travellers to charge their laptops, tablets or mobile phones.

A flat-screen TV mounted nearby runs a scrolling list of useful business-related information, including details about the chamber and local events.

Free access to Wi-Fi is available throughout the terminal.

Nicholson said a number of chamber members fly in and out of Sudbury multiple times in a week, and having the ability to check email or review a report while on the fly is invaluable.

“For business people, time is very precious to them, so they’re looking for the quickest mode of transportation, the easiest mode of transportation, and to be able to do business while you are travelling is very important to a lot of these people,” she said.

Hailey Short, the airport’s marketing and communications coordinator, said the business centre has been a popular draw for clients over the years.

“At any given time, there are lots of people using the business centre,” Short said.

“About 70 per cent of our travellers are business, so that’s our target market, and we want to be able to serve them correctly and give them the right resources.”

The sprucing up of the business centre comes at a fortuitous time, since the airport has just got underway with a master planning process, which is designed to map out infrastructure upgrades at the airport over the next 10 years.

In mid-July, airport representatives met with local focus groups and held one-on-one meetings with stakeholders to glean feedback about changes they might like to see at the facility.

They also launched an online survey, which is open to the public, to compile suggestions.

“We’re soliciting feedback from the general public as well as the business travellers to see what they would like in their airport,” Short said.

“So, what kinds of services, what their travel habits are like, so that we can better accommodate them.”

A master plan focuses more on architectural features rather than objectives or goals, Short explained, and so it could include things like new renovations or bigger spaces, and the business centre could be encompassed in that.

One common request the airport receives from travellers is the ability to get coffee inside the secure departures area, especially during early-morning flights, Short said.

Currently, that area is equipped with a few vending machines with cold drinks and snacks.

“It’s a pretty significant change,” Short said of the plan.

“A big portion of it is travel habits, so that we can get a better understanding of what times people are travelling at, how often per year they travel, and what the leisure travellers are looking for and what the business travellers are looking for, because often it’s quite different.”

Nicholson suggested the business community could benefit from having a large business centre at the airport, complete with accommodations and meeting space.

As it stands now, with the airport situated so far out of the city, it’s a long drive to any hotels, conference centres or restaurants, so something more centrally located could be a boon for business clients.

She also speculated about other potential economic drivers for the airport’s business park, suggesting an out-of-the-box approach to generating interest – could Sudbury be suited to a warehousing or distribution hub like FedEx, or could the surrounding unused property be useful for agricultural purposes?

“The development corporation out at the airport has done a tremendous job in terms of that whole economic park and growing it,” Nicholson said.

“I'm sure there are lots of other ideas that could help to increase the opportunities at the airport and increase economic activity in the city.”

Feedback collected from the master plan survey and focus groups is expected to be ready by early to mid-fall, Short said, after which the airport will determine its next steps.