Both the Calgary and Edmonton airport authorities are in the midst of rolling out strategies to put their respective cities on the radar screens of the world's cargo carriers.
Edmonton Airports is unveiling its Port Alberta initiative while the Calgary Airport Authority has just approved a 10-year cargo and logistics development plan.
Both are looking at different ways of making Western Canada more competitive.
Edmonton wants to capitalize on its untapped potential: The largest airport (in terms of land) in Canada with scheduled air service and two long runways capable of landing virtually any aircraft flying today - even the new Airbus A380, which will be the world's largest passenger aircraft when it enters into service.
|Photo courtesy of Calgary Airport Authority|
|Calgary Airport Authority vice-president of business development Stephan Poirier wants to increase the airport's profile.|
It's also highlighting its location next to Canada's largest industrial park, the Nisku Business Park, the second- largest oil and gas manufacturing park in North America after Houston.
"We recognize that the Edmonton market is vastly underserved in terms of air cargo," says Glen Vanstone, director of cargo and business innovations for Edmonton Airports. "Currently the air cargo market in Alberta is growing, but what we want to do is make sure we're positioned so we can capture all the air cargo growth potential for the Greater Edmonton Region."
Vanstone also notes that with Edmonton being the country's most northern major airport, it puts it at the crossroads of major North American air tracks (the highways of the sky).
"Air traffic from Europe to the Western U.S. crosses over Edmonton, and from Asia to the U.S. Midwest and Eastern U.S., traffic also crosses over Edmonton. Being at the intersection of these major routes or air tracks is very strategic," says Vanstone.
He adds that the airport's role as part of the federal government's transshipment program, in which air carriers carry cargo to and from Canada enroute to third countries, is very valuable.
Combining the efficiencies of air, rail and road transportation at a single point is being called the "Port Alberta" concept.
"What this does is it allows us to function effectively as a gateway to and from Asia, Canada's North, the oilsands, and for all of North America," says Vanstone. "It's a new strategic link in the global supply chain."
Calgary airport officials are also eyeing that global supply chain.
"For us, the most important thing is to increase our profile and try to attract logistics operators," says Stephan Poirier, vice-president of business development for the Calgary Airport Authority.
"If we do not connect this country with the rest of the world we are falling behind."
Calgary is looking at attracting major corporations such as LG and Samsung, says Poirier.
"We'd like to get their attention - to build a distribution centre at the airport - to transport their goods between Asia and North America," says Poirier.
He adds he's not concerned that most of the product would then be moved elsewhere, as the city would then get light value-added jobs such as pricing and ticketing products or changing the keys on keyboards to Spanish from English. "Calgary would be the main point of entry in the North American market."
Poirier says he believes the goal is achievable, by convincing the companies that they can service their customers faster and cheaper from Calgary. The 10-year plan recently presented to the airport's board of directors lays out the blueprint on reaching that objective.
Edmonton Airports' Vanstone says Port Alberta will be introduced in stages, taking what exists now and fine-tuning it to the region's needs.
Infrastructure improvements, including the addition of a new cargo aircraft apron - the concrete the planes need to sit on - are to be in place by next spring.
The authority is also working with development interests for warehousing and cargo processing facilities though the deals are not yet finalized. Initially, however, the Port Alberta focus will also be on current operators to ensure they have the capacity to grow their business.
And as for Edmonton and Calgary competing for air cargo, Vanstone says that won't be the case. "There's ample traffic for everybody."
(Laura Severs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)