Like the mayors before him, Percy Farwell knows the importance of the airport to the Town of Gander; it’s a dynamic that stretches back to before the Second World War.
It's a relationship that’s grown and evolved over the 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II opened the new terminal and solidified the town as the crossroads of the world.
That’s why Farwell and the Gander town council are taking steps to grow existing partnerships and spin-off industries so Gander can remain the province’s aviation hub.
“It’s something that’s very much on the town’s radar as a priority sector,” Farwell told the Central Voice.
“We believe that with the right support and collaboration with industry and with government, this could be a great success story of how the economy can be strengthened outside of the major urban centre in the province.”
The town, like it has since its inception, has every intention of remaining Newfoundland’s aviation hub.
When asked to revisit a report published back in May by McKinsey and Company, which suggested building up the aerospace industry in St. John’s, Farwell said Gander remains concerned about the province’s intentions.
He added provincial officials have assured the town that no action has been taken and that Gander would be able to make its merits known.
“We aren’t out to make enemies but the government needs to be reminded that we’re here and what the advantages are of developing the sector here,” he said.
For starters, noted Farwell, the presence of aerospace organizations like Nav Canada, EVASAIR and D-J Composites Inc. represent significant building blocks for aviation in Central Newfoundland.
The College of the North Atlantic also offers a number of programs centred around aircraft maintenance and engineering.
Lastly, the airport is a major client for several suppliers in town.
“Aviation and aerospace is kind of in the DNA of the whole community which makes for a fertile space for further development,” explained Farwell. “The spinoff is significant.”
The town council has begun a consultation process to evaluate the strengths of the industry in Gander before moving forward.
Farwell said the key to growing the town as an aviation hub starts with partnerships inside and outside the province.
“We’ve already had some work done in identifying strategic collaborations and partnerships which can help us grow the industry here,” he said.
“The heartbeat of this community is the airport and aviation related activities.”