Winnipeg Int’l Adds Multiuse Facility to Enhance Cargo Operations

Winnipeg Int’l Adds Multiuse Facility to Enhance Cargo Operations
Paul Nolan
Published in: 

A Chinese proverb encourages us to, “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” Tyler MacAfee, vice president of communications and government affairs for the Winnipeg Airport Authority, can relate. 

MacAfee is excited about the recent completion of a $27 million multiuse building on the east side of Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)—not only for the accomplishment itself, but also for the facility’s role in a larger plan to redevelop the airport’s east campus cargo facilities.

Most of the seven tenants that will be moving into the new 96,000-square-foot facility are moving out of buildings on YWG’s east campus. At least two of the older buildings will be demolished to make room for new cargo facilities.

“The multiuse facility is the first domino of a much bigger redevelopment of the airport campus,” MacAfee explains. “It all drives off our desire to build the airport out as an asset for the community. We’ve been looking at what we should be investing in that is a need for this community, and cargo is a big part of that.”


Project: Ground Service Equipment Multiuse Building

Location: Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson Int’l Airport 

Size: 96,175 sq. ft.

Cost: $27 million

Funding: Winnipeg Airport Authority capital budget

Construction: Sept. 2018-March 2020

Architect: LM Architecture

Contractor: Con-Pro Industries Canada Ltd.

Strategy: New facility will house 7 tenants; most are moving from east campus, which will be redeveloped to increase cargo capacity

Last fall, the Airport Authority received a $30 million grant from the National Trade Corridors Fund, a Canadian transportation infrastructure investment program. That money will be put toward a $62 million project to increase cargo capacity at YWG. The airport is a key transportation hub for central Canada, the Canadian North and for Canada’s international trade. The new multiuse facility was funded completely by the Airport Authority’s capital budget and is not part of the $62 million cargo project. 

Much-Needed Space 

Crews broke ground in September 2018, but eventually encountered delays due to steel shortages, subcontractor staffing issues and inclement weather. Construction was nevertheless completed in March, and 60% of the building’s tenants were slated to move in by end of summer. The remaining businesses will stagger their move-in dates over the following months. 

The building is 750 feet long—the size of two football fields—with individual tenant footprints ranging from 4,000 to 30,000 square feet. Tenants will include Air Canada, Airport Terminal Services and Gate Gourmet Canada. 

The new building will also house Inland Technologies, which provides YWG’s deicing services. After handling the reclamation and recycling of deicing fluid at the airport since 2002, the company began providing deicing services this past winter after purchasing the parent company of U.S.-based Integrated Deicing Services in 2015.

Blair MacAulay, northwest regional operations manager at Inland Technologies, says the new multiuse facility will hold the company’s seven deicing vehicles and three deicing support vehicles. Inland will have four bays for vehicle storage and maintenance, a welcome expansion after spending last winter juggling 14 vehicles in and out of the facility used by its deicing reclamation operations. 

“It was a really challenging year to conduct major maintenance from this single-bay shop and still be able to run our operations,” he reflects. The company will continue operating its fluid reclamation services out of the original space.

Location, Location, Location

All of the tenants in YWG’s new multiuse facility will be more conveniently located to the airfield compared to their previous east campus location. Workers also will now be inside the designated security area once they start their day, and will no longer have to pass through security checkpoints when shuttling back and forth between the facility and airfield apron. 

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility because it has a groundside that interfaces with the airside component,” says Robert Bachart, director of real estate and development for the Winnipeg Airports Authority. 

Apparently, tenants are impressed by the new building, too. “They’re telling other airports they want a cut-and-paste of what we’ve done in Winnipeg because they believe it’s going to be the next generation of footprints,” says Bachart.

Current Realities

Naturally, fallout in the travel industry from the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the companies that have agreed to lease space. Consolidation or smaller staffs could change the amount of space they need.

The airport’s focus on enhancing its east campus cargo facilities comes at a time when passenger carriers are relying on increased cargo loads to cushion the loss of passenger revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A New York Times article from late May reports that the three largest U.S. airlines—American, Delta and United—began running cargo-only flights in March. American Airlines had not flown an all-cargo trip in more than three decades. In May, it was flying 140 a week.

Pre-pandemic, about half of all airfreight was transported in cargo planes operated by companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL. The other half was carried in the bellies of passenger airplanes. The grounding of most flights worldwide in March contributed to a nearly 23% decline in air cargo storage, according to the International Air Transport Association. But demand fell a more modest 15%. Passenger carriers saw the need and filled the void, in part by retrofitting airplane cabins to accommodate cargo.

“We don’t know what the other side of this coin is going to look like from an airport perspective when we come out of the pandemic,” MacAfee comments. “Traffic could be half of what it was pre-COVID and not return until four or five years from now.” 

Plans for the cargo project on the east campus are being reviewed, he adds. 

The Canadian government addressed the importance of YWG’s cargo expansion project when announcing the award of a $30 million grant from the National Trade Corridors Fund for the initiative in September.  The project “provides wide-ranging economic and trade benefits for Canadian producers in the region by offering additional export capacity for commodities that would otherwise be exported via U.S. transportation hubs,” it said via a prepared statement. “The project will also improve accessibility and affordability of goods in Canadian remote and Northern communities.”

The statement specifically cited benefits for producers in e-commerce, agricultural livestock, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and aerospace, which require the type of specialized storage space YWG is including in its expansion project. 

“One of the things we really focus on as an airport authority is how we innovate,” MacAfee says. “We’re looking at the space to see what we can do from an innovation standpoint: What are the opportunities?”  

Canada’s Push for Increased Cargo Business

According to a statement from the Canadian Minister of Transport, an efficient and reliable transportation network is key to Canada’s economic growth. That is why the government invested $30.4 million to increase air cargo capacity at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG). 

Here is Transport Canada’s take on the project: 

  • While the U.S. continues to be Canada’s top trade partner with $741.4 billion in 2018 ($437.6 billion exported, $303.8 billion imported), trade is growing with international markets. From 2015 to 2018, trade with Asia (excluding the Middle East) grew by 18.9% to $199.2 billion; and trade with the European Union grew by 19% since 2015 to $118.1 billion in 2018.
  • This project will strengthen the safety and sustainability of YWG, which is part of the National Airports System. The 26 airports in the National Airports System serve about 95% of all scheduled passenger and cargo traffic in Canada, and handle almost all of Canada’s international trade flows by air.
  • By Investing in Canada Plan, the Canadian government is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities. The aim is to help Canadian exporters accelerate their presence in new markets and take advantage of the new opportunities that exist because of the trade agreements the government has secured in the past three years.

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