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Industrial land flying off the shelf at Victoria International Airport

Sidney’s Titan Boats among companies snapping up industrial-zoned land on airport
Jennifer Michell, Titan Boats’ organizational development manager and Jonathan Stanners, marine systems technician, stand in front of the company’s future home at Victoria International Airport. (Wolf Depner/News Staff) Jennifer Michell, Titan Boats’ organizational development manager and Jonathan Stanners, marine systems technician, stand in front of the company’s future home on Victoria International Airport. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

With more projects on the way, industrial development on Victoria International Airport land is preparing for take-off. But the gangway might also be pulling away.

Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations for the Victoria Airport Authority, said interest from industrial companies has increased, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of industrial development is important for the region generally and for the airport specifically, because it diversifies the airport’s revenues, he said.

“Various areas of the airport are zoned for different uses and purposes,” he said. “The aviation sector is primary for us, but also other types of land development and revenue from leasing is extremely important because it does provide diversity.”

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Industrial companies coming to the airport sub-lease the land from the airport authority, which has a long-term lease with the land owner, the federal government. Sub-leases have a minimum length of 30 years but can run significantly longer. Sub-leasing companies own their building and other improvements to the land.

So what accounts for the interest? “Probably, a large part of it has to do with the fact that we are one of the only areas left in the Peninsula with industrial land available,” said Hunchak. “But our inventory is actually becoming scarce as well.”

Hunchak said the majority of easily develop-able industrial land on the airport is currently under negotiation (Hunchak could not give additional details) or currently tied up in actual construction, for example the new base for the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

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Another prominent example, now approaching completion, is the construction of a new facility by Titan Boats, the Sidney-based builder of aluminum rigid-hull inflatable boats for customers around North America and beyond.

Jennifer Michell, Titan Boats’ organizational development manager, said the company chose the airport for a number of reasons.

“For us, proximity to the ocean is key, for sea trials,” said Michell. Another reason is proximity to the airport itself to help facilitiate international growth.

The company’s strong community ties to Sidney, the fact that many employees live in the community rather than commute, and perhaps above all the availability of flat land for production and storage also factored in the company’s decision to consolidate its four separate but adjacent facilities with a total square-footage of 11,000 in Sidney’s industrial area west of Highway 17 in the new, singular location.

“It ticked all the boxes,” said Michell, who anticipates that the company’s move will happen at the end of April or early May.

With the move, the company founded by Michell’s father John Stanners continues its evolution from Stanners’ basement to a facility with a finished square-footage of 25,000.

“Overall, it has been a long process, but it has been a good one,” said Michell. “I think it is the right direction for the company and we are excited to grow in to it.”

Michell, who sits on Sidney’s economic advisory committee, also sees growth among the 75 companies operating in Sidney’s industrial area with more ahead.

“It’s really interesting to see the growth and recognition of what’s going on this side (of Highway 17),” she said. “I think the airport is doing a great job of helping to facilitate some of that.”

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