It was not long after our Conservative Government had taken office in 2006 that Prince George Airport Authority (PGAA) Chair Jim Blake came calling in Ottawa.
He was here to present at my office boardroom table a vision to senior cabinet ministers and their staff that would see Prince George become a new ‘tech stop’ for transpacific cargo flights. It was an ambitious yet exciting plan to develop Prince George’s airport into an International Gateway as part of Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway.
At the same time it was a means to help diversify Prince George’s economy in the aftermath of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. Jim Blake would return later that year to provide further details and progress reports on PGAA’s plan to my Cabinet colleagues, and I was proud each time PGAA’s inspiring vision was presented.
The proposal sold itself.
The PGAA tech stop and runway expansion initiative was so well-developed and rich in economic development opportunities for the region that our Conservative Government committed $11-million to fund it through the Mountain Pine Beetle mitigation fund. The Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Province of British Columbia also contributed $11-million each.
This week, a BIG sign that this vision has become a reality came as the first 747 aircraft touched down for refuelling at the Prince George Airport, en route from Seoul, South Korea and onto Miami and then Caracaras, Venezuela.
Prince George now has Canada’s third longest commercial runway. As a tech stop with no operational restrictions and curfews, the airport offers international carriers a 24/7, lower-cost alternative to more congested airports, like Anchorage, for refuelling and crew changes en route to their destination. Yet this is just the beginning.
Located next to the airport is a 3,000 acre Global Logistics Park development. Major Asian carriers are interested in the regional cargo, logistics and development opportunities available. In fact, our investments in Northern BC, including the airport and the CN Intermodal Terminal in Prince George and the Fairview Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert, are attracting attention across the Pacific Rim and the United States as a premier transport hub and corridor.
It’s taken hard work and perseverance and I would like to congratulate and thank the Prince George Airport Authority, the Northern Development Initiative Trust, my counterparts in the provincial legislature, as well as all of the partners who shared this important vision to establish Prince George as a new key link in international trade.
Our airport’s ongoing potential will figure prominently as Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to focus on building stronger, more dynamic partnerships with the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.
This week he wrapped up a very successful mission to India and early next month he will travel to China, Canada’s third-largest export destination, to build upon the success of 18 previous visits by Conservative Cabinet Ministers, including myself.
As two-way trade between nations like China and India increases, Prince George and all of Northern BC are ideally-positioned to seize the resulting transportation, logistics and service opportunities. And that means more growth and more jobs right here at home!