Abbotsford airport flying high
Turn your back on the Fraser Valley for a month and you’ll discover a fresh crop of housing, retail and commercial projects sprang up while you weren’t looking.
Indeed, as the valley’s population continues to boom, and residents and businesses push eastward in search of refuge from Greater Vancouver’s exorbitant real estate prices, the area looks poised for a period of sustained growth.
In Abbotsford, this has been the primary impetus behind a drive to turn its airport into a hub that can service the bustling region, and in doing so, enable the city to take advantage of the bounty of economic opportunities that might result.
This strategy was given added momentum in February when the federal government announced that YXX has been approved to participate in the international air cargo trans-shipment program.
The program allows air cargo to be moved through Canada for shipment to third countries. For example, cargo can now be flown from the U.S. into Abbotsford, stored temporarily, and then flown on to an Asian destination.
Similarly, international air cargo can arrive from overseas and then be shipped by rail or road from Abbotsford to the U.S,, allowing the airport to position itself as a key part of the Asia-Pacific gateway.
Almost immediately following the government’s announcement, Surrey-based Pacific Customs Brokers Ltd. and its affiliate company, Pacific Overseas Forwarding, said they were expanding their operations to YXX.
The company has moved into an existing 3,000 square foot warehouse at the airport from and will provide on-site cargo shipment clearing and freight forwarding services.
Founded in 1958, PCB claims to handle more shipments in Western Canada than any other customs broker. “We have had our eye on Abbotsford for a long time,” says Greg Timm, PCB’s general manager. “It was only a matter of time until we opened here.”
The PCB facility is expected to give YXX an advantage in its competition with Vancouver International Airport (YVR) when it comes to goods movement.
“Shippers in the valley can obviously save time and money by using Abbotsford over YVR,” Timm explains. “Landing and logistical costs are lower here and timelines are faster.”
The hope is that other businesses will follow PCB’s lead and choose to locate closer to YXX to tap into the new trans-shipment services and reap the benefits of the airport’s overall lower costs and efficiencies.
“This type of operation tends to act as a magnet for regional airports,” says YXX’s general manager Mike Pastro, who adds there is still “plenty of room” for expansion.
“We have additional land on the airport for buildings and aprons, so we expect to see greater shipping volumes as secondary businesses are attracted to the area,” he says.
If Vancouver’s airport can serve as any indication of what might be in store for YXX, significant growth is inevitable.
Between 1992 and 2007, YVR cargo volumes increased nearly 55 per cent, according to the Vancouver Airport Authority. In the past year alone, shipments there have risen by nearly 10 per cent, with a 20 per cent increase in Asia Pacific traffic.
“Canada’s economic growth and standard of living still depend heavily on the export and import of products and resources,” says Abbotsford MP Ed Fast.
The lucrative possibilities that stem from this dependence are not lost on YXX’s newest tenant.
“When you look at the increased trade opportunities that come along with an international air freight hub, combined with the cost advantage of setting up a shop in the valley, it’s a real advantage,” says Adam Wickstead, Pacific Overseas Forwarding Inc.’s general manager.
“And with the Golden Ears Bridge coming next year, we think YXX is going to grow, and so will the businesses located around it.”
While the new PCB facility is clearly a boon for the airport, it is also a major development for the City of Abbotsford itself.
Jay Teichroeb, Abbotsford’s economic development manager, believes PCB’s presence will give local businesses an edge, providing them with easier access to export markets.
The hope is that this will ultimately lead to the creation of more jobs and further economic spinoffs for the burgeoning city.
“We’re starting at a very logical level,” says Teichroeb. “We have the existing facility at the airport to accommodate significant growth, and we can manage related businesses of trucking, customs, warehousing, distribution and secondary value-added businesses as they get interested.
“We’re one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in Canada,” he adds. “This will only enhance that.”