Ready for Take-off: Parry Sound Airport puts businesses in flight

Earning Their Wings

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The Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Project received the "Community Economic Development" Award at the recent Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations' Conference. (l to r) Carmen DeMarco of FedNor, Rick McNabb of the Airport Commission, Bill Spinney of the Parry Sound Area CBDC and the award's sponsor Sharon Wilson.

From a 3,000 ft. paved runway and a trailer for a terminal in 1979, Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport has since become known as the 'Little Airport that Could'. Following a decade-long, five-phase plan to develop infrastructure essential for adding emergency services and attracting small and medium-sized businesses, the Airport's Industrial Expansion Project has landed a prestigious honour from the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations (OACFDC). It was chosen from several nominations from across the province to receive the Community Economic Development Award in September.

In accepting the award, Doug Sainsbury, Airport Commission Chair and a local Township Councillor proudly boasted, "We are now the only municipal airport in Ontario that's profitable." He added that the airport has also become a major employer in the Township. It was in 2004 that local leaders, including Mr. Sainsbury, recognized that having an airport was an asset in the community. With the tarmac now stretching to 4200 ft., plus the adjoining acreage, the potential for adding an industrial park became a strategic priority.

Each phase of development added necessary infrastructure including water and sewer services, hydro, fire suppression systems, roads, taxiways, aprons and floating docks for amphibious aircraft, plus ground preparation to provide building sites for several aircraft hangars and new small business enterprises. As well, the airport's terminal has been expanded upward with the addition of a second storey that now houses a popular restaurant. By the time Phase Six has been completed by the end of 2014, Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport's Industrial Expansion Project will have leveraged over $10 million in private sector investment in commercial/private hangars and equipment, attracted 10 new business operators to the Airport, added 60 full time jobs and created two full time Airport staff positions.

Approaching Parry Sound Airport

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In just over a decade, Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport has expanded its airfield into a full-fledged industrial park that's attracting new venture start-ups and companies from across central Ontario.

The Industrial Expansion Project was nominated for the OACFDC award by the Parry Sound Area Community Business & Development Centre Inc. (CBDC), one of 24 not-for-profit Community Futures Development Corporations in Northern Ontario supported by FedNor. It offers free business advice, workshops and commercial financing to entrepreneurs looking to develop or grow a business in the Parry Sound region. "This project is now about keeping up with the demand", says Bill Spinney, Executive Director of the Parry Sound Area Community Business & Development Centre Inc. "As we build it, more commercial and industrial tenants are coming to us."

The Parry Sound Area CBDC has been an integral part of the Airport's Industrial Expansion Project since inception, from long-range planning to capital and operational funding, through to its lending portfolios. FedNor has also long been on board with the project. Since 2001, it contributed over $2.4 million to municipal partners to help support the necessary infrastructure to attract private-sector investment to the area. "This is an exciting time at the Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport", says Doug Sainsbury. "We appreciate the Government of Canada's support through FedNor for our business development efforts and the recognition of the immediate and long-term potential of this important project."

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