Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA)

Leading transportation innovation & growth

With a focus on Manitoba this month, CBJ caught up with Barry Remple, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), to find out how the WAA has brought the provincial community together.

CBJ is pleased to present the WAA story to those who might not be familiar with the private company—which has been going strong for more than a decade. Winnipeg Airports Authority is a community-based, non-share capital corporation that operates, manages, maintains and invests in the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

The federal Canadian government originally handed control of the airport over to the WAA on January 1, 1997. And things have definitely progressed since the private enterprise took the reins.

The WAA have very clear strategic directions guiding the company, and in turn, the community. They employ a rule of “enhanced customer service and value,” making sure to understand the needs of their customers and assure value through measurements relevant to them. This strategy encompasses the first area of concern for WAA, according to Remple.

“We are committed to focusing and meeting the needs of Winnipeg and outside customers, evaluating how to get goods and services to and from the areas they need. We work with carrier communities to ensure them the greatest opportunities to offer return for their shareholders” he explains.

 WAA’s second direction is to deliver and operate excellent facilities and services, which means being environmentally-sound and incorporating innovative design principles. These strategies have been incorporated into the new development project for the airport.

Airport redevelopment project

The $585-million airport redevelopment is currently in its first phase and it is slated to be to be completed this year. Funded by the airport improvement fee, the construction project includes revamping its parking and terminal, upgrading roadways, civil site works and infrastructure over a seven year period. The entire project is slated to be completed this year. “It’s coming along really well,” tells Remple.“The building project is running on time) and on budget,” he adds.

Although last year was tough for many companies involved in infrastructure, the economy didn’t slow down the commission or development of the project. “At the beginning we suspect [the contractors] were squeezed as construction costs and the value of steel came down, but they’re probably more confident now,” Remple adds. “We found someone who would take on the project at the price we wanted and we’ve moved forward. We’ve had no difficulty. Now have sufficient capital to move through to the completion of the project.”

When the project is finished, the airport’s total building size will be approximately 51,000 m², with a four level parking facility housing 1,559 stalls. The airside construction area will include an additional aircraft parking apron and ground site services will also be added.

A benchmark for airport design and environmental responsibility

As the lead on design, Stanis Smith, Senior Vice President with Stantec, told CBJ that the company is proud to be the “prime consultant providing architectural, interior design and LEED® coordination services for the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport’s new terminal. Stantec has been involved with the project since day one. “We have a long history with the WAA. In 2002, we were selected to work with them to develop options for redevelopment of the airport campus and, were responsible for producing their master plan for a new airport terminal. We were then selected in 2006 as the prime consultant for the airport terminal project, together with PCP Architects,” Stantis says proudly.

Stantec delivers airport projects to a global level of design excellence, and “one out of every three passengers travelling in North America, today, will have gone through an airport where Stantec has completed a significant project,” according to the company. Stantis echoes Remple’s hopes for 2010: “We anticipate the opening of this new state-of-the-art terminal building during 2010, with the expectation it will be the benchmark against which 21st-century airport terminals are measured. It has been carefully designed to create as pleasant and intuitive a passenger experience as possible. Amongst other things, it sets a new standard for sustainable design, and we are anticipating that it will be the first official LEED® Certified airport terminal in Canada.”

Remple is proud of the innovative environmental approach WAA has taken for this project, which once again, reflects the company’s commitment to its strategic direction to offer excellent facilities. “We’re one of the few airports in North America to be using entirely renewable energy through hydro, and the project will be a bit of a showcase for environmental responsibility,” he beams.

Expanded air service

WAA’s third strategic direction is about the company really setting the bar for expanded air service. WAA strives to “improve Manitoba’s link to the world” and will build on its 24-hour access intermodal connectivity. Remple says that the WAA, now and once the redevelopment project is complete, is “focused on activation.”

“The day that that building opens, we’ll be focused on activating in a way that meets our community’s expectation. We are aiming to reconnect with our region—working with the communities in our area, and more particularly, those communities in the north.”

Remple explained that for Manitoba, transportation has been the key to unlocking economic potential through joining communities together meeting WAA’s fourth strategic goal: to be an effective community partner.

Creating jobs, creating a community

WAA has a mandate to be a source of pride for the community and a leader in its growth and development and does this in more ways than one. WAA measures itself in two ways: effective service supply and how well they are connected to the community. “We don’t get funding from the government, we can only continue to provide the services our community wants and can benefit from if we charge for something they deem to be of value. It always comes back to dealing with the community,” Remple explains.

 “Most people think of airports as terminals and runways. But WAA has land and in the use of that land are we contributing to community growth,” says Remple, emphasizing that WAA is committed to “innovation in transportation, not just in air.”

Having been responsible for creating over 9,800 jobs in operations, WAA is also in the business of creating critical mass in Winnipeg. “Winnipeg’s growth and its periods of economic benefit and job creation have always been around an innovation in transportation,” Remple notes. “We want to have Winnipeg recognized in the 20th century as an airport city.” On both the airport property directly and indirectly, total job creation through WAA is at the 21,000 mark. “When we’re doing things, we’re looking at how we can affect GDP etc., as we strive to be a truly intermodal airport city,” Remple says. Within that model, WAA has done a lot with its airport campus to concentrate transportation at the airport which, in turn, creates jobs. The airport has brought in Greyhound to join the campus, so that transportation is not just car and truck to air, but also bus to air.

In unique partnerships with Canada Post and WestJet, the company has also created some jobs in the aviation sector. “We’ve created 6,400 jobs through development with aviation partners in Manitoba, and 8,100 jobs by just the redevelopment project we took on here. There are an additional 500 people onsite for the project. Clearly, we are not just growing because of the people that are serving onsite, but also using our facilities to grow the aviation sector and transportation sectors.”

Last, but not least

WAA’s final strategic pillars are to develop and realize employee potential and develop new revenue streams, which Remple says they will continue to do on behalf of the community. “Our landing fees only cover just under 80 per cent of our operations, so we have to constantly look for other revenue streams.” Looking onto the future forWAA, the company will continue to diversify revenue sources and serve the community.

“Each year, we look at three or four areas that we’re going to try to achieve together. But no matter what your role is at WAA, you know what your role is to achieving your goals with your team.”