Organizations work to keep Port Alberta plan alive

Two major Edmonton business organizations are seeking to push ahead with the Port Alberta concept after the group promoting the idea shut down this year.

The Edmonton International Airport and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation hope to come up with a new business plan and structure by the end of March.

“It’s a terrific opportunity. We really don’t know how far it can go,� says Norm Richard, the airport’s director of air service development.

Port Alberta was created in 2007 to promote Edmonton as a major warehousing, logistics, air, road and rail distribution hub.

That could mean improved train links with the Prince Rupert port or better goods movement from local factories to customers in northern Alberta or around the world.

The federal government provided $1.5 million to help with this work, and Port Alberta became a non-profit company with EIA as a board member in 2010.

Richard says the group wound down last spring and no longer exists, although he doesn’t know the reasons.

But he still sees value in working with other organizations to expand the regional economy, which among other benefits would boost EIA’s growing air cargo business.

“Port Alberta is a mechanism to facilitate more partnerships in the community,� he says.

“The more people working in the same area, the more chance there is to succeed.�

For the airport, this could mean such projects as getting federal approval for a foreign trade zone where companies could operate with lower taxes.

Another possibility is erecting more buildings in the Cargo Village south of the terminal that improve the efficiency of airplane-truck interactions.

City council recently gave EEDC $200,000 for 2015 to help fund Port Alberta South, as budget documents call the project.

The aims of the venture include establishing the capital region as a preferred location for trade-related businesses and accelerating development opportunities.

“If we don’t do this, then Port Alberta is dead,� Coun. Michael Oshry said.

“I think this is just one more kick at the cat.�

EEDC president Brad Ferguson told councillors he wants to split a $1.5-million budget with EIA, surrounding communities, the province and the federal government.

He’d first like to focus on the airport area, which has the highest chance of success, then expand to such places as the northeast Industrial Heartland or the west side Acheson industrial area.

While Coun. Mike Nickel, council’s former representative on the initiative, said Port Alberta failed in the past, he sees big possibilities for the future.

“Port Alberta has the potential to be one of the largest drivers for our regional economy outside of what we’ve got right now.�

gkent@edmontonjournal.com

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