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County buys into Barrie’s airport shares

In Simcoe County
Nov 28th, 2013

By Laurie Watt Barrie Advance

Barrie has another partner buying into the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport.

Simcoe County is purchasing a 20-per-cent share in the airport on Oro-Medonte Line 7 North. The facility, with a 6,000-foot runway, also has Canada Customs in its full-service terminal building that also features a café, pilot lounge and executive passenger lounge. For CanPass holders, the airport is a port-of-entry 24/7.

Opening in 1991 with three partners – Barrie, Oro-Medonte and Orillia – it had a 3,500-foot runway. Despite Orillia pulling out five years ago, the airport has been expanded and upgraded several times. In the past three years, Barrie, Oro-Medonte and the federal government invested $15.8 million to maintain and upgrade what they consider is a gateway to local and international markets.

Simcoe County’s growth plan also labelled the airport as a regional economic zone and having Simcoe County onboard will take the airport to greater heights, according to LSRA president and Barrie Coun. Michael Prowse.

“The county has the ability to market and partner with Barrie and put us in a very unique position to attract and grow potential employers who want to be near or in an airport,” he said. “I see greater and greater things. We can take this to the next level.”

Barrie calculates its share, at 60 per cent of investment since 2009, to be worth $3.95 million, as the county would purchase a 20-per-cent share worth $1.3 million.

“Speaking for the board, we’re really proud of how the airport has grown, how jobs have grown (and) how costs have come down,” Prowse said.

“We also recognize Barrie has taken on a very large burden. Our taxpayers have taken on a sizeable subsidy,”

The airport is an asset that attracts investment in the entire region, Barrie transportation and economic development committee chairperson Coun. John Brassard said.

“Other people are looking to get into (the airport business) as opposed to run form it. Why? They’re starting to realize this is the greatest economic development asset in this region,” he said.

“It’s not just about the City of Barrie and jobs here or about the county or about Oro-Medonte. We all benefit when we create employment as a result of an asset like an airport. The investment will pay dividends long after us. It’s about vision.”

The growing airport is home to three airlines, a flight training school, as well as three government agencies: the Canada Border Service Agency, Hydro One’s helicopter services and the OPP’s aviation services.

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