Airports are not just places to catch a flight; they‘re fast becoming economic drivers in the many Northern communities.
Future economic opportunities for Dryden may come by air rather than down the Trans-Canada Highway.
“We’re getting more deliberate in focusing on the aviation side of things,” said Dryden Development Corporation’s (DDC) office manager Nicole Gale.
Over the years, airport staff has quietly worked to land tenants like Discovery Air Fire Services, Kasper Aviation and Morgan Fuels. Gale said it’s time to showcase those successes for a new marketing and site selection push to see what else can be done.
Driving investment toward the airport is one of those “low-hanging fruit” opportunities, she said.
Past studies indicate attracting aviation maintenance and mechanical service companies would be a good fit.
There is also ample acreage with its Airport East industrial park plan to lure some non-aviation light manufacturing and warehousing.
Interestingly enough, the airport has a licence agreement permitting them to draw significant amounts of water from a nearby spring, which could encourage a water bottler to set up shop.
A “definite plus” for the airport is its instrument landing system (ILS), the only airport in the region with such a navigation aid, Gale said.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry operate a district fire centre at the airport, employing some 200 people year-round.
Gale said the ministry is extending their land lease and will need more property for some “significant plans for their operations.”
In working with airport manager Norm Sanders, “we’ve been having discussions looking at ways on how we start putting the airport on the front of our marketing initiatives and highlighting some of those strengths.”
With a new five-year strategic plan in place, Gale said the big take-away from that document is a “return-to-basics” approach. The DDC will be hiring a consultant to help them shore up their digital messaging for their investment readiness campaign.
Gale said they’ll also be following up on responses from an earlier business retention and expansion exercise. The community is witnessing increased activity on the residential and commercial front in new startups and expansions. Although Gale is not exactly sure why, “it’s an encouraging sign.”
Despite staffing cuts, Gale said the municipality needs to reconnect with business owners by listening to their concerns and gearing future infrastructure and planning decisions to address the needs of the business community.
That means reinstating a land development group comprised of various department reps to deal with zoning and land-use planning issues.
“Now is a good time to pull together. We don’t want to lose sight of anything.”
Dryden also continues to dabble in biomass crop production possibilities. The DDC has been working with Bionera, a forest regeneration company, in running willow tree field trials to evaluate biomass energy generation possibilities. Now in the trials’ third and last year, it needs to be determined whether these plantations are commercially viable.