Smithers announced the official launch of the airport modernization project this afternoon.

With work already underway, the plan is to have the terminal expansion completed sometime in 2019.

“Our airport is vital to Smithers’ long-term success. Expanding and modernizing our terminal building will make our airport more competitive and support economic development in our tourism and resource sectors,” says Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

Airport Manager Rob Blackburn says there are over three local contractors involved in the project. Kelowna based Vector Projects Group was awarded a construction contract for over $7 million for the over $8.4 million project.

Blackburn’s not sure how much the project will help the local economy in exact dollars but says it will be significant.

“Aqua North Plumbing is the major mechanical contractor. So there it will be all local people. And it’s a significant amount of work going in there with the geothermal field.

Also, Francos Painting (& Drywall) has got the drywall and painting of the building inside once we’re finished. So that’s another local contractor,” says Blackburn.

He also says a local rental company has a contract to work with Vector supplying gravel trucks and excavators.

There will be up to 20 workers on site with the potential to have up to 30 throughout the duration of the project.

Several grants have taken the brunt of the budget and Council says there will be no increase in taxation for the borrowing of three million towards the project. Blackburn says the town would likely have to borrow the $3 million anyway to deal with the ageing infrastructure of the current building.

Here’s a list of the grant funders:

– The Government of Canada provided $4 million to this project through the Federal Gas Tax Fund.

– The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako provided $400,000 towards the Smithers Regional Airport Modernization Project.

– Northern Development Initiative Trust committed $125,000 for the project through the Economic Diversification Infrastructure program.

According to a town media release, ‘the project involves expanding the terminal by approximately 5,000 sq. ft. in a southern direction toward the Central Mountain Air building, constructing a new departure lounge to accommodate an additional 118 passengers, and integrating fully accessible washrooms for the new departure lounge and main lobby.

Further upgrades are planned for the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and fire suppression systems. Work will also be carried out to reconfigure the layout of the airport, reorganizing the check-in, baggage claim, baggage handling and security areas to improve traffic flow and foster a more enjoyable experience for passengers. Once complete, the design of the new addition and renovation will help accommodate larger aircraft, process passengers more efficiently, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the use of geothermal energy.’