North Bay officials can see economic recovery on the horizon as FedNor announced the federal government is providing the Jack Garland Airport Corporation with more than $1.1 million, Aug. 4.
"This important project will enable the North Bay Jack Garland Airport to overcome the financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Nipissing–Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota.
The airport has survived the devastation of the pandemic and the departure, and eventual return, of Air Canada. The airport was buoyed by the taxpayers in the 2021 budget, making up an $800,000 shortfall after losing $1.5 million in airport revenue, a figure cited by Jack Garland Manager Jack Santerre.
The non-repayable contribution will help mitigate the financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the operations of the Jack Garland Airport for a one-year period.
"It will save 11 positions at our airport," said North Bay Mayor Al McDonald, "but the impact is far bigger than that," when it comes to 500 "good-paying" aviation-related jobs in the area, plus the ancillary positions spread across 65 mining-related companies.
McDonald did not mince words when he said the closure of the airport "could have been a very significant hit to the City of North Bay," and credits city council for acting swiftly to prop up the airport during the uncertain days of the pandemic when air travel was at a standstill.
Santerre admits it will take between two to five years for Jack Garland to recover.
"The airport stayed open with the help of the City and various government initiatives. We were able to provide essential aviation services," said Santerre. "With the return of Air Canada, we are starting to see growth in essential business travel.
"The essential funding announced today will allow us some time to re-establish pre-pandemic levels of traffic. We'll never be back to where we were, there is going to be a new normal and we're working hard to be at the cutting edge of that."
Rota added the airport will be in a position to "play a meaningful role in the region's economic recovery in the months to come. This investment will help ensure the commercial viability of the airport while growing, enhancing and maintaining capital assets in support of the overall economic development of the North Bay area.
"As it is the only facility of its size in Ontario with a dedicated air-side postsecondary aviation training facility, our airport is also vital to our local post-secondary institutions," said McDonald.
"Regional airports, like Jack Garland, have a significant economic and social impact on the population and businesses they serve," said Jack Garland Chair Wade Wasylciw. "We look forward to continuing to operate in a safe, secure and efficient manner for the benefit of the entire community."
The funding comes from the Government of Canada’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI), launched last March.