By IAN ROSS
Air Base Property Corp. (ABPC) hopes to land another tenant for its last empty hangar at the Aerospace Centre by year’s end.
“We’re in the middle of negotiations with a prospect and hope to fill the vacancy,” says Dave Butti, ABPC’s board chairman of the Hangar Six property, a small 13,000-square-foot building that was once part of the former airside assets of Canadian Forces Base North Bay.
“This deal we’re working on, this (Canadian) company saw an opportunity and we’re quite confident that we’ll secure another tenant,” says Butti, of the last serviced lot on site. Butti, who signed a non-disclosure agreement, is hopeful a deal will be finalized later this year.
The all-volunteer-driven, non-profit group has no staff, no administration and runs a virtual office that will disband once the last hangar is leased out with an option to buy.
“We’ve been doing this for seven years,” says Butti, laughing. “We’re looking at a window within the next two years that our mandate will have been met.”
Formed in 1996 by appointees from the city, labour and the local chamber of commerce, the group faced down the Department of Defence’s plans to bulldoze the hangars of the former Canadian Forces Base and created an aerospace industry that now employs 300 people.
Since ABPC took over the airside assets of the former CFB North Bay, four companies - Bombardier Aerospace, Lemex Aviation, Voyageur Airways and Wood Group Turbines - re-located plants to North Bay.
Vic Fedeli, ABPC’s former chairman and the driving force behind the group, resigned in September 2002 and is considering a leading candidate to replace the retiring Jack Burrows as North Bay’s mayor.
As the owner of 16 acres of buildings and property, Air Base Property Corp. is now a major stakeholder of the newly created North Bay Airport Authority, which came into existence in February 2003.
Previously a private company ran the airport on behalf of the city, but the municipality decided not to renew their
contract and established a local authority with a board appointed by city council.
“Once ABPC’s mandate is fulfilled to lease out and eventually sell off all the property, we will disband. There will be no need for a site developer anymore.”
Economic development responsibilities will be turned over to the new Jack Garland Airport Corp., which Butti
also sits on as a board of director. The commission has about 30 acres of building lots available for lease, including 10,000 square feet of office space in the former two-storey airport terminal building.
“The aerospace sector has gone through its challenges since Sept. 11. Many companies, such as Bombardier, have pulled back, but some of the smaller niche companies, like Voyageur, continue to do well, but everyone’s adopting a wait-and-see approach and looking for opportunities.
“Voyageur is still our anchor tenant. They’ve survived cyclical downturn in the aviation business quite well and they’ve hired more people.”
Bombardier temporarily shut down assembly operations of their CL-415 ‘Super Scooper’ water bombers in early September due to a lack of new orders, but have no plans to close the facility. Bombardier wants to sell new
planes and depending on numbers will restart the line.