Members of the community gathered at the Red Deer Airport for its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning.
The celebration was for the Airport’s runway extension, a project that was completed over eight months, finishing up at the end of 2016. The runway was extended 2,000 ft. allowing for the accommodation of larger jet aircraft. This puts the runway at 7,500 ft.
Graham Ingham, CEO of the Red Deer Airport said it’s their largest capital project to date, at a cost of $9.5 million.
Among the many benefits, one was the creation of more than 70 local jobs.
“The Red Deer Airport has seen incredible growth in the past few years and your MLAs have done a fantastic job highlighting for our government how important it is to the local economy,” said Deron Bilous, minister of economic development and trade for the province.
He said the Red Deer Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in Canada with a 179% increase in scheduled passengers over the past four years.
“With such aggressive growth I was so proud to work with both the City and the county to announce our support for the Red Deer expansion during my time as municipal affairs minister,” he said.
The new runway, he said, will increase revenue at the Airport and enhance business opportunities throughout the region.
Mayor Tara Veer said the runway expansion is more than just a strip of pavement.
She said it’s a key economic driver to the City and the region, positioning them as a regional hub in western Canada, the country as a whole and North America.
“It is a long-awaited, critical component of our regional transportation network to exponentially increase our trade and our distribution opportunities,” said Veer.
She said the runway also ensures that Red Deer’s infrastructure improvements will be complete when they welcome more than 20,000 Canadians to the City for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“When we are on the national stage in 2019, Canadians will know that Red Deer is ready to welcome them not only to the Games but back to Alberta’s third largest major urban centre and regional hub every time thereafter,” she said.
Mayor of Red Deer County, Jim Wood, also shared his excitement for the expansion.
“This is definitely a milestone today, a milestone of change. There are certain things that happen in our communities that in fact change the future and this airport will definitely change the future of this region,” said Wood.
Robert Kelham, board chair of the Airport said it also gives them credibility in efforts to bring in more business, more aeronautical business and more airside and ground side business.
“This runway extension is 2,000 feet and that doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of people but that’s about six football fields in length.”
The discussion ended with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the extended runway.