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North Bay airport business park ready to fly

A handful of companies will begin turning sod this fall on new shop space at North Bay's Jack Garland Airport.
Aerospace park
The City of North Bay is preparing to grow out its aerospace sector with major infrastructure improvements for an expanded airport business park.

A handful of companies will begin turning sod this fall on new shop space at North Bay's Jack Garland Airport.

The City of North Bay expects to make a string of announcements beginning in August on airport projects that will create as many as 44 jobs as the municipality prepares for a new wave of industrial growth.

Without going into specifics, Rick Evans, North Bay's economic development manager, said one company is a new arrival in town, while three others are expansions of existing businesses that are a mix of aviation, industrial and one, that he classifies as, “high tech.”

Evans expects two project proponents will have shovels in the ground by September.

“We have the land, now it's up to the companies to do their own negotiations with the contractors.”

Evans made his remarks following a June 28 provincial funding announcement of $2 million to extend municipal services into 24 newly created five-acre lots. A matching federal contribution is expected soon from FedNor.

The development is the first of a multi-phase airport business park strategy expected to roll out in the years to come.

The City of North Bay has already spent $7 million for a new on-site water tower as part of this $13.3-million opening phase.

Expanding the local aviation and aerospace sector is considered a major driver of economic growth by the City of North Bay.

The municipality's bid to land a U.S. aircraft manufacturer, Dornier Seaplane, fell short last year when the Quebec government stepped in to heavily subsidize and convince the Florida company to locate an assembly plant on the outskirts of Montreal.

But North Bay soldiered on with ambitious plans to expand its Aerospace Centre, which is already host to Bombardier's Canadair 415 waterbomber assembly line, Voyageur Airways, and Canadore College's School of Aviation campus.

With a newly-resurfaced 10,000 foot-long runway courtesy of the G8 Legacy Fund and more than 600 acres of vacant land available for development, the city has put together an attractive incentives package that's worked so well in the past to encourage local companies to expand.

The plan is to sell or lease airside property coupled with an aerospace community improvement plan featuring discounted municipal taxes staggered over a three-year period, beginning with 100 per cent holiday the first year, 66 per cent the second, and 33 per cent by the third.

Evans said it's sparked a heightened level of business queries.

“We're really pleased with the response. We've got a number of interesting tools at our disposal.”

The city is also waiving building permit fees and development charges.

“It's a very competitive package,” said Evans.

North Bay will not go down the 'buck-an-acre' route that quickly filled up its Gateway industrial park, but has opted for a certified appraiser for guidance on purchase prices.

More upgrades are coming with taxiway improvements and extension of a municipal road running along the airport's north side to directly connect with Highway 11.

A new airport marketing strategy will concentrate on advanced manufacturing opportunities, though Evans believes there is potential to attract aircraft maintenance and overhaul shops.

With an air force-length runway, North Bay has always entertained air cargo opportunities.

Nothing is imminent on that front, but Evans said their moves are timely given the province's $2.2 million commitment to undertake a regional multi-modal transportation study.

It's not known who will be undertaking that study, nor has Evans viewed a draft of the terms of reference, but he hopes government will offer North Bay a seat at the table when it does.

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