Imagine having a huge facility in our region whose primary focus is driving economic growth, diversification and helping businesses. A facility that supports thousands of jobs, multinational companies and small local shops, a place that attracts investment and asks for virtually nothing in return. What a gift that would be.
Fortunately, we do have such a facility, Edmonton International Airport.
Did you know that pre-pandemic, the airport, also known as EIA, supported 26,000 jobs and had an economic impact of more than $3.2 billion in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region? It offered more than 50 non-stop destinations, supported tourism, investment attraction, energy development and so much more.
I can’t overstate how important an economic engine EIA is for us, but now this amazing facility needs our collective help so it can continue to help lift our whole region.
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the entire aviation industry globally. Airlines cancelled dozens of routes and passenger volumes at EIA fell to 2.6 million travellers in 2020 from 8.1 million the year before. With health restrictions easing and vaccinations rates climbing, airlines are now making strategic decisions about where they will fly and what communities they will service. Businesses across all of Central and Northern Alberta need a strong international airport for our continued success.
Even in the height of the pandemic, EIA has found a way to continue supporting its mission of economic development and supporting our region. Cargo, exports and imports, have been a source of strength, and now a $36 million expansion project is underway. Other examples include the new Ag-celerator which will help grow food manufacturing, a 627-acre solar farm development financed by private investment, and many other developments in its Airport City Sustainability Campus.
For any business, strong air service matters. You don’t have to be part of the tourism industry or directly exporting to benefit. Maybe you’re trying to attract new investment from outside our region and non-stop air service will help bring investors in. Perhaps you’re trying to recruit a star candidate from a different part of Canada or beyond, or maybe you need to travel for work and can’t lose time in multiple connections – whatever the reason Edmonton International Airport is a vital facility.
There are ways we can all help ensure a positive future for ourselves by supporting EIA. When you travel next, make sure you travel through EIA. Talk with your airline of choice and request non-stop service to wherever you’re travelling if the route doesn’t exist. Airlines respond to demand and now is the time to make our voices heard as critical decisions about returning flights are being made. There are elections coming, talk with your candidates to ensure they understand the vital role EIA has in our economic recovery.
I would encourage everyone to visit www.flyeia.com/community to learn more. Edmonton International Airport has always been there for us. With our support it can continue to help our region for a long future ahead.
John Liston is Vice President of Alberta Enterprise Group