It was good news for Yorkton's economy last week when it was announced the Yorkton Municipal Airport would be getting some major infrastructure upgrades thanks to $400,000 flowing to the facility, half from the province and half from the city.
The province made half a million available to Saskatchewan through its Community Airport Partnership (CAP) Program, of which the Yorkton airport was allocated $200,000, an amount matched by the City.
As Mayor James Wilson pointed out in a Yorkton This Week story last Wednesday investment in the airport is important. "This is one of our entrance ways to the city," he said, adding it helps stimulate tourism and economic development, as well as being critical for things such as medevac services.
Certainly the facility gets used now. The airport has some 10,000 take-offs and landings per year, said Wilson, far more than most people realize.
Ron Evinou, chair of the Yorkton Airport Authority (YAA) explained the money is ear-marked for upgrades at the airport. He detailed about $165,000 will go to runway lighting, and "a lot of the rest of it is for paving. All of it has to be spent on infrastructure."
The new injection of money will push investment at the airport to $840,000 in the past 20-months, from both the province and the City, said Evinou.
That sounds substantial, and in relative terms it is. However, when you listen to Evinou talk about the future of the airport, and how the facility could grow to substantially enhance its impact on the city's future the money falls well short of the needs.
Evinou said the Airport Authority will be going before Yorkton Council soon to introduce its five and 25-year plans. While not tipping what the long-range plan will completely contain, he did suggest it would cost millions to implement.
In some cases the work required has been rather glaringly obvious for years. One most talked about is the need for a proper terminal, one that is not vintage the Second World War, and with actual serviced amenities to serve not just the flying public, but the pilots.
It has been pointed out before that for many key businessmen and politicians their first view of Yorkton is the antiquated building which doubles as a private business and as a cobbled together terminal.
The YAA plan though will go far beyond a terminal. Evinou talks of servicing the airport, and surveying lots both on, and around it, to facilitate business development at the airport. There is surplus land on the property beyond the needs of landing aircraft, and the YAA will no doubt have plans how to utilize it in ways which will help the facility be more self sufficient.
The long-term plan, and potentially, a shorter-term one, if interest can be shown to make it worth while, will be to attract regularly scheduled air service - likely to Winnipeg. Such service would connect city residents to the world via air, a major step for our city.
The recent money infusion basically helps keep the airport up to standards, and sets the stage for what the YAA plan will unveil once released. At that point hopefully all three levels of government will come to the table to help implement the key components of the plan to help the airport grow to fulfill its potential as an economic driver for Yorkton.