Hamilton airport's new cargo terminal is wheels up.
Cathie Coward,The Hamilton Spectator
The $12-million facility was officially opened Thursday, even though its main tenant has been operating from it for a month.
Airport president Frank Scremin said the new terminals, with a cooler, secured customs area and 16 truck bays, will open Mount Hope airport to tons of cargo it hasn't been able to handle before.
"This will open access to the overnight express business in Hamilton to a lot of cargo operators," Scremin said. "This facility is going to be accessible for them."
Scremin explained that while Hamilton is already the busiest cargo airport in Canada, its growth has been held back by the lack of something like the new Air Cargo Logistics Centre.
He explained that with few warehouses in Hamilton, shippers lacked space to store their freight while they consolidated cargos or got customs clearances. Time-sensitive freight, like flowers, pharmaceuticals and food, couldn't go through Hamilton at all without a cooler.
Now, with 5,000 square feet of climate-controlled space, fruit from South America, flowers from Europe, seafood from the Martimes and medication from everywhere can pass through Hamilton.
"We are going to be a lot more aggressive about going after the perishables business now," Scremin said.
Half of the new terminal has been taken over by CargoJet, the Mississauga-based company that has become Canada's largest air freight hauler.
Gord Johnston, the company's vice-president for sales, said the new terminal will make John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport a destination for many new airlines, bringing in freight his aircraft can then move around the country.
"I know other airlines are going to be attracted here now," he said.
Cost of the facility was split between the federal and provincial governments and TradePort International Corp., the company that operates the airport under a long-term lease with Hamilton.
With a federal election looming, government MPs were quick to praise the Harper Conservatives for backing an important infrastructure project.
"Canada's prosperity depends on a network of strong public infrastructure," said Public Works Minister Diane Finley. "We remain focused on creating the right environment to encourage economic growth."
Finley said the new facility will result in 400 jobs, both in its own operations and among companies using it.
Ontario Education Minister and Guelph MPP Liz Sandals said her government supported the project because it will boost the area's economy.
"We're supporting this because we want to grow our economy and create jobs right here in Hamilton," she said. "We're supporting this because we know how important infrastructure projects like this are.
Even Opposition MPs supported the project. Wayne Marston, the NDP member for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek praised it as a source of jobs for the future.
Ron Foxcroft, chair of TradePort's board, said the city needs more such projects that cut across party lines for the good of the city.
"More than anything this airport is an example of partnerships working," he said. "It shows we can break down the party lines for the benefit of the city."