EIA is a major economic driver for Ipiikhookhanipiaohtsi

Let me tell you about a visit I made this week to the Edmonton International Airport. A long planned tour of the campus provided me with an eye-opening look at what is a growing economic driver for Edmonton and Ipiikhookhanipiaohtsi.

Lynn Wyton, the airport’s director of strategic business connections, who doubled as my tour guide, said the anticipation is to grow the workforce by another 10,000 to 26,000 by 2025. 

While everyone is hurting because of COVID-19, EIA is weathering the storm. Across it’s 70,000 acres, economic output is $3.2 billion a year, led by steady gains made in cargo. 

One thing that is keeping business humming, is Edmonton International’s geography on the Asia to North America cargo flightpath. Anchorage, Edmonton’s competition is punching above its weight, yet Edmonton is more than hanging in there.

Cargo is helping diversify Edmonton’s and Alberta’s economies. A growing business is in value-added agricultural products. Not just the ones grown in Leduc County, but from all over the west. Wyton pointed out Washington State cherries as an example. Trucked in from south of the border, they’re on Edmonton’s tarmac, loaded in cargo planes and on Asian store shelves in a matter of 36 hours. The same can be said for products from all over B.C. and Alberta.

Investment is being driven into EIA. A second billion dollars in infrastructure has now been invested. DHL, Purolator, FedEx and others have facilities sitting on the apron. Rosenau Trucking is a major player that wasn’t imaginable a few years ago. You know about the Premium Outlet Mall, and the Costco as the airport’s real estate portfolio continues to grow. There’s the race track, and Aurora Sky covering several acres as well.

Job losses from a year ago are now on the rebound

No doubt, the largest task facing Edmonton over the next several years is getting people back to work. And a lot of factors will have to go into that, including keeping costs as low as possible for business owners, while allowing them to maximize efficiency.

When the Bank of Canada maintained its trendsetting policy interest rate at 0.25 percent Wednesday it also cautioned, “there is still considerable economic slack and a great deal of uncertainty about the evolution of the virus and the path of economic growth. The labour market is a long way from recovery, with employment still well below pre-COVID levels. 

Edmonton city council has a key role to play with transit

While the airport lies just outside of Edmonton’s boundaries, our city council needs to give it the tools it needs. Council can do this by supporting Route 747, which serves as the city’s chief public transit between EIA and Century Park.

Route 747 is a vital transportation link for our region, including for many Edmontonians who work in the area. That includes young folks starting out on their careers, new Canadians establishing an economic foothold for their families, and folks who do not have access to a car or choose not to drive.

For visitors coming to Edmonton from other places in Canada and around the world, the 747 bus may provide their first impression of Edmonton. It might be their best option getting into the city. Let’s make it easy for visitors to get into our city. Let’s make a good first impression, and encourage visitors and investors to come here.

I’m making the commitment to ensuring the 747 not only maintains its current shared schedule with Leduc and the airport, but service grows as airport activity increases in the coming years. 

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Scott Johnston for Edmonton City Council