Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Canadian Helicopters wants financial help from city to move to International Airport

EDMONOTON - A major player in the local aviation industry wants financial help from the city to move into more expensive space at Edmonton International Airport.

Don Wall, president and chief executive of Canadian Helicopters, which is the country’s largest helicopter operator, has to relocate from its current site at the City Centre Airport which is being closed to make way for residential development. The company’s lease at the City Centre Airport expires in September.

Wall told council’s executive committee Wednesday that the company, with 50 years in Edmonton, would like to keep operating locally. But to do so, it wants help covering some of its costs associated with moving to Edmonton International Airport.

The cost of operating an office and hangar at the International is about $33 per square foot, compared to about $11.50 per square foot at the City Centre Airport, Wall said. The company asked the city to help cover moving expenses of about $200,000 and provide a subsidy of $100,000 every year for five years to help absorb the higher operating costs.

“That’s a very small percentage of what it’s going to cost us,” Wall said. “We think that’s a very fair number based on what it’s costing us.”

Without assistance, the company will have to consider leaving the area, officials said.

“It’s not our first choice. We’re looking at the city to take a pro-business approach,” said Robert MacKay, Canadian Helicopter vice-president of special projects.

No decision on the matter was reached Wednesday. The committee, which includes several councillors and Mayor Stephen Mandel, discussed the request and asked city administration to continue talking to the company. Mandel said he believes the city should try to help Canadian Helicopters, if it can.

“We spend tens of millions of dollars to attract business here and we have one here that’s a top-notch business,” Mandel said. “We should try to do what we can to keep them here.”

Canadian Helicopters provides transportation and associated services internationally and supplies support operations in Afghanistan and Antarctica. It has operations in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and regions of Southeast Asia.

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