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Sault airport lands $2M in pandemic relief funding

Regional Air Transportation Initiative money will keep airport corporation operationally afloat for a year
Sault Airport funding
(Sault Ste. Marie Airport Dev Corp photo)

After taking a financial beating from reduced air travel restrictions due to the pandemic, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation finally fielded some relief with $2.15 million in federal funding dedicated toward airport operations for the next year.

The money is coming through FedNor and originating from the federal government's $206-million Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI), launched in March, to subsidize regional air carriers and aviation-related businesses and non-profit organizations.

Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan delivered the news on July 28.

As an independent entity, the Sault airport was feeling the pressure of plummeting aviation traffic through the facility since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.

Plenty of government money was being funnelled to bail out air carriers and Canada's larger airports but little to nothing was trickling down to local airports and regional hubs.

Not aligned with the municipality, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp. self-generates all of its operation and capital costs through user fees, leases, aircraft and vehicle parking.

The corporation is a creation of a national policy from the 1990s when Ottawa transferred ownership of many airports to local or private authority interests. The Sault's airport governance was set up as a private not-for-profit.

The corporation employed 22 people pre-pandemic, including five winter seasonal workers. According to the news release, the airport currently employs 13.

A similar funding announcement is expected to be made July 29 at the airport in Sudbury.

“Today’s investment of more than $2.15 million will help secure the ongoing operations of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, an essential service and key economic driver for the people and businesses of Sault Ste. Marie and the entire region," said Sheehan in a news release.

“The Sault Ste. Marie Airport is a socio-economic lifeline for our residents and businesses, and this FedNor funding will help to ensure that it continues to play a key role in our economic recovery and future growth," added Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano.

“I wish to thank the Government of Canada for this important investment through FedNor that will enable us to keep operating efficiently for the benefit of the communities and businesses we serve," said Jerry Dolcetti, chair of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation.  "The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the air travel and transportation industry, and support through the federal Regional Air Transportation Initiative will help bring stability to our facility and sector."