City council boosts YOW recovery and growth with approval of new plan

airport

City council has voted to support the Ottawa airport’s post-pandemic recovery with the creation of an airport-specific Community Improvement Plan (CIP).

A CIP is used by the city to stimulate private investment in the revitalization of commercial areas through urban renewal and property upgrades. Other key Ottawa areas identified for this designation include the Montréal Road CIP, Integrated Orléans CIP and the Heritage CIP.

As a significant economic driver for the city, the airport, often known by its call letters YOW, will now be identified in the city’s new Official Plan as a “special economic district,” enabling it to focus on private-sector investments and development as part of its recovery plans.

“The City of Ottawa’s attention to YOW’s situation confirms its understanding of the importance of the airport in our community and its impact on economic growth and prosperity across all sectors and industries,” said Ottawa International Airport Authority CEO Mark Laroche in a statement this week. 

“The business of airports is highly competitive and the CIP will make the Ottawa airport a more attractive option for businesses looking to capitalize on airport access and connectivity. We look forward to working through the next steps with the city,” Laroche added.

During council deliberations, Mayor Watson spoke in support of the motion, highlighting that the city has very few tools it can draw on to assist the tourism sector, which is the city’s third-largest employer.

“It is a very clear signal that this city supports and wants to do its very best to support the tourism industry that is so very important to our local economy,” said Watson.

At the airport authority’s annual general meeting in early May, Laroche said that, while the economic recovery is underway and the situation for the airport is improving, cost-cutting initiatives were largely responsible for decreases in overall net losses in 2021. Most of the airport’s other sources of revenue, including terminal and landing fees, as well as concession revenues and parking fees, were stagnant or in decline year-over-year as YOW’s total passenger count fell, requiring the airport to issue $100 million in bonds to help cover its losses.

The pursuit of the CIP designation was driven by Mayor Watson and the city’s economic task force in late 2021, when staff were directed to explore opportunities to support the airport in its economic recovery coming out of the pandemic, citing the critical role the airport plays in the local economy’s future growth and prosperity.