From flight schools and private air services to hospitality, manufacturing and logistics companies, many types of businesses can benefit from being located near an airport while contributing to economic development in the region. Investment in airport infrastructure increases connections to international markets, attracts new businesses, and creates jobs.
In 2021, Venture Kamloops, the city’s economic development function, gained the support it needed to conduct a feasibility study as a tool for establishing Kamloops as a premier location for business development through expansion of its light industrial lands.
Opportunities for Business Attraction
In its most recent Strategic Plan, Venture Kamloops identified four sectors with the most potential for growing Kamloops’ economy: Construction, Accommodation, Retail, and Transportation and Warehousing. With the first three sectors already supported by Venture Kamloops initiatives, the feasibility study focussed on Transportation and Warehousing.
“There has been a big chunk of land sitting undeveloped at the airport,” says Jim Anderson, Venture Kamloops’ Executive Director. “We knew there were things that could be done to make infrastructure improvements, but it was time to take formal stock of all the elements to establish where we were, and where we could go logically – and logistically.”
Strategic Partnerships Key to Project’s Success
The Economic Trust of Southern BC (ETSI-BC) provided funding to conduct the study which fit with the Trust’s strategic pillars of Building Economic Development Capacity in Smaller/Rural Communities, and Innovating and Advancing Key Sectors. The Trust recognized the economic opportunities associated with bringing more transportation and warehousing businesses to Kamloops in the short and longer term.
The scope of the project meant extensive data needed to be collected and analyzed, requiring strong collaboration between the Airport, Venture Kamloops, and Vantage Airport Group which manages and operates the airport. The study was conducted by Kamloops-based Plan-It First Consulting, and WSP Engineering, an international consulting firm specializing in complex projects. Venture Kamloops also worked closely with the City of Kamloops to gain information on zoning, utilities, land use restrictions and other areas.
“The consultants described Kamloops’ airport lands as one of the most developable properties they have dealt with in recent years,” points out Anderson. “Projections showed the potential for approximately 40 new businesses to locate at the airport, and at least 100 new jobs created requiring workers with diverse skills, education and experience. It also identified specific infrastructure changes that could take place immediately including expansion of airside service businesses that front the runway apron.”
The recommendations in the report will be implemented in stages with the timing determined by the Kamloops Airport Authority Society.
“We feel this project is critical to future economic sustainability in the region,” says Anderson. “Our partners and stakeholders are already using the information to plan for more development at the airport in anticipation of an inventory of light industrial land becoming available.”
Adds Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC, “With the identification of potential cluster development and more robust connections, this project opens the door to a new direction for Kamloops Airport.”