February 19, 2021 By Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
The County of Simcoe became the majority shareholder of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (LSRA) in January 2020, with a 90 per cent ownership of the airport.
Preparing for the future, the airport shifted gears during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the regional manufacturing sector and the movement of COVID-19 supplies, and is currently in phase one of a strategic plan to support regional economic growth and attract new job opportunities to the area. Working with the federal and provincial governments, the airport reopened commercial border services to expand the role the LSRA plays in supporting area businesses.
The County’s investment and plans to grow the airport has contribute to economic and job creation opportunities such as the Oro Station Automation Park and the MedeiCA Park development.
“County Council’s strategic decision to invest in the airport paid off immediately for local businesses who transitioned their models at the beginning of COVID to provide PPE supplies to regional, domestic and international markets,” said Simcoe County Warden George Cornell. “With the advancement of the MediCA Park and Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park, we are also beginning to see how the growth of the LSRA will support the needs of current businesses, while attracting new investments and ultimately helping to create more regional job opportunities.”
Since January 2020, the County has, worked with area partners to advance a critical runway expansion approval and funding process. Phase one of this project includes widening the runway from 100 feet to 150 feet.The project also included the installation of new infrastructure to support a lighting system and drainage requirements.
Phase two of the project will include the installation of a new high-intensity LED system planned for the spring of 2021, and a proposal to lengthen the runway from 6,001 feet to 7000 feet.
The full runway expansion project is estimated to cost $6.1 million with the County’s investment estimated at $3.5 million.
This initiative has received a grant of $1.5 million through the Provincial Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, and $345,000 from the City of Barrie.
When completed, the longer runway will enable the LSRA to receive larger aircraft.
Since the beginning of 2020, significant infrastructure and operation investments at the airport include the purchase of a de-icing truck for winter operation, modernization of the airport’s Automatic Weather Observation System, and installation of closed circuit security cameras.
The LSRA is one of the top five busiest airports in Canada without a control tower, and is located on 595 acres. The airport is planning to increase passenger flights for domestic and international travel.