Get ready for a lot more people and business in Nanaimo.
The theme was shared by featured speakers John Hankins, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation CEO, Bernie Dumas, CEO of Nanaimo Port Authority and Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and CEO, at the What’s Next Nanaimo? Business and Breakfast event hosted at the Coast Bastion Hotel Tuesday by business and human resource consulting firm Chemistry Consulting.
Over the next 25 years, Nanaimo’s population could swell by about 30 per cent to near 130,000 from its current estimate of about 95,000.
Major factors driving projections are continued world population growth and people seeking relief from unaffordable Lower Mainland real estate and living expenses, but to capitalize on those factors Nanaimo must build its growing technology sector, Hankins said, and get the message out that Nanaimo is a viable alternative to Vancouver.
Dumas said limited and expensive industrial space in Vancouver is boosting business and jobs in short sea shipping from Nanaimo Harbour. To meet future demand, the Duke Point short sea shipping facility will need to double in size.
In spite of a struggling Alberta oil industry, January 2016 passenger numbers at Nanaimo Airport were 38 per cent higher than for January 2015. Passenger demand for flights has shattered all projections and the airport is already building for the 2030s.
“The growth has gone faster than we anticipated,” Hooper said. “In fact, we thought we would be at 300,000 passengers by 2021 and we were at 312,000 passengers last year.”
The airport now generates about $100 million and 1,400 jobs to the regional economy annually and projections call for $150 million and 2,000 jobs from 2020 on.
Hooper is looking at $100 million in projects to expand the airport terminal, aircraft parking and flight operations areas, passenger vehicle parking lots and road upgrades over the next 25 years.
The airport underwent a $26.6-million runway, terminal and navigation systems expansion between 2006-10.
Local architectural and engineering firms are already working on plans for the airport’s new fire station and terminal building upgrades.
Construction will begin on the terminal boarding lounge and security line in late 2016, followed by rebuilds of the arrivals area and baggage screening areas.
“We’re going to start to become a hub of Vancouver, I think, sooner than we anticipated, so we need to have strong gateways to Vancouver Island, be it the port, the Nanaimo Airport or the float planes,” Hooper said.