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Margaree Airport expansion still up in the air

Councillor Laurie Cranton


-by John Gillis

    The announcement last week of a signing of a Letter of Intent between the Town of Port Hawkesbury to lease airport property to Celtic Air Services for the development of a new jet reception centre came as a surprise to many.
    While many in the region welcome private enterprise investment in the Port Hawkesbury Airport, others may be wondering what exactly this might mean for the future of the Margaree Airport.
    In recent years the Municipality of the County of Inverness had commissioned a study outlining future business potential for an expansion of that infrastructure and the county appeared willing to invest significantly in such a venture, attempting as well to attract provincial and/or federal financing to the proposed $9 million plus project.
    The Oran reached Margaree District 2 Councillor Laurie Cranton this week to discuss these developments.
    “I see no problem with the Port Hawkesbury Airport. I see it as an industrial base as compared to what we are looking at in Margaree which would be tourism/resource.  I think there’s a big difference there, to bring planes tourism wise, into the Margaree Valley and have them land right next to the Cabot Trail and the Margaree River.  We’ve been working on this plan for three or four years now in conjunction with the golf course (Cabot) and we’re still hoping to move it forward.  Council will be having some discussion over the next few weeks.  We see both airports as viable and in the last couple of years Port Hawkesbury has had a surplus,” said Cranton.
    The Municipality of Inverness did however withdraw its support for the first time for its annual funding for the Port Hawkesbury Airport, which is actually located in Port Hastings.  The county stated that since the Port Hawkesbury Airport was no longer running a deficit, it essentially didn’t need the estimated $30,000 per year funding, despite the fact the Port Hawkesbury Airport committee has always indicated it wanted to upgrade its facilities and that Cabot Links/Cabot Cliffs and other Strait area businesses continue to rely exclusively on Port Hawkesbury Airport for travel.
    Cranton also added that they’ve had other people looking at the Margaree Airport and new board members coming on the airport committee.
    “I’ll be recommending to council in the next couple of weeks those new names.  One question I will be asking in terms of the Port Hawkesbury Airport is where did they get the figures for the number of jobs they are projecting to be created?  Has there been any studies done?  I know Cabot wants to develop the Margaree area because of the proximity to (golf), and with the community meetings a lot has been put into it.  We can certainly deliver a nice product there that has all kinds of potential,” said Cranton.
    Asked if he’s seen any indication that Cabot is willing to put up any contribution towards an expanded airport in Margaree, Cranton says nothing has been stated yet but he believes they may be willing to come to the table to discuss that again and he hopes that can be done in the near future.
    “We’ve reviewed the numbers there and I think this has to get off the ground soon or be put to bed,” Cranton added.
    Cranton  says they’ve gone back to the consultant to review the financial figures and costs and he expects there has been a small margin of increase in the costs. That document will be reviewed at Inverness County Council soon.
    “We have a beautiful river and plenty of tourism attractions and this is an opportunity to help our tourism industry blossom and I believe this is an opportunity to create benefit to the entire community,” Cranton concluded.
    Last week, Cape Breton native and President of Celtic Air Services Limited, David Morgan, told The Oran  that he is very excited about the new venture in Port Hawkesbury and is looking forward to doing more business in his home province.  Morgan’s home base is near the Stanfield Airport in Halifax. Morgan studied Commercial Aviation at Nova Scotia Community College and he has worked in the aviation industry ever since.  He began his career with Can Jet Airlines in customer service and spent time working with First Air both in Ottawa and north in Yellowknife as well as with a family owned airline.
    Morgan says they’ll be looking to work with the local NSCC (Strait Area Campus), fuel truck operators, heavy equipment operators, and customer service workers.
    “We have every intention of having shovels in the ground by June 1st but everything is dependent on building permits and our agreement with the Town of Port Hawkesbury,” said Morgan, who noted that he’s extremely pleased with the reception his company has been given locally and he added that they hope to begin hiring in the coming weeks.
    This week, Morgan also announced another partnership in the Port Hawkesbury Airport development with Celtic Keys, a local property management company led by business partners, Damien MacInnis and Mitch MacDonald, both of Port Hood.









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