Simcoe County council is hoping manufacturing and industry will take off, creating as many as 1,000 new jobs in the region thanks to investment in a local airport.
On Tuesday, council voted in favour of increasing their ownership in the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (LSRA) from 20 per cent to 90 per cent, making them the majority owner in the Oro-Medonte site. The county made the move to ensure the estimated $40-million investment required to improve the airport infrastructure can go ahead as outlined in the LSRA strategic plan.
“One of the main benefits and the main reason the county is taking ownership, is we can afford the investment that needs to be made into the airport to fulfill the strategic plan,” said Trevor Wilcox, general manager of corporate performance.
Last summer, the strategic plan for the LSRA was presented at county council.
The three-phase plan focused on developing infrastructure, including a runway expansion, in Phase 1 to enhance the corporate aviation business, as well as maintenance, repair, operations.
Phases 2 and 3 were identified as being demand-based to include commercial travel. The preliminary budget summary associated with all three phases was close to $66 million.
The estimated cost associated with infrastructure work required to secure business prospects is approximately $40 million, which includes investments identified in Phases 1 and 2 of the strategic plan, in addition to water/wastewater infrastructure.
“The City of Barrie and the Township of Oro-Medonte said they couldn’t afford that,” said Wilcox. “A smaller benefit is, the way we’re going to organize it, we think we can manage the airport a little bit better. This will be a department within the county that connects with economic development.”
While the transfer of ownership may not save tax dollars directly, the investment in the airport will, in turn, bring in more manufacturing and industrial investment into the County of Simcoe, said Debbie Korolnek, general manager of engineering, planning and environment.
“I can’t give specifics right now because they want to maintain their confidentiality, but we have serious inquiries from heavy industries that are looking to expand in Ontario,” she said, adding that some of the industries in talks with the county would see nearly 1,000 new jobs created.
“We’re uniquely positioned, being right beside Highway 11 and Highway 400, in close proximity to the Greater Toronto Area. We also have close ties with Georgian College and Laurentian University.
“We’re in a really good position to be able to take advantage of this opportunity,” she added.
Under the previous ownership model, the City of Barrie owned 60 per cent of the airport, the Township of Oro-Medonte owned 20 per cent and the County of Simcoe owned 20 per cent.
Under the new ownership model, the County of Simcoe will own 90 per cent, with the City of Barrie retaining 10 per cent. Oro-Medonte will no longer be a shareholder.
The County of Simcoe will be paying the Township of Oro-Medonte $1.48 million for their shares, and the City of Barrie $3.7 million.
The directors on the LSRA board appointed by the county will now consist of one county council representative from Oro-Medonte, three additional county councillors and two external/community appointees.
- with files from Raymond Bowe