De Havilland announces new campus to be developed in Wheatland County

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited has announced it will be developing a new aircraft manufacturing facility to be located within Wheatland County.

The facility was announced officially during a press conference on Sept. 21, during which the drafted plans for the campus were revealed.

The new facility will be called De Havilland Field and will consist of a new aircraft assembly facility, runway, parts manufacturing and distribution centres, as well as a maintenance and overhaul centre.

Additionally, educational space for training, a general office, control tower and an aircraft museum are included in the site plans for the campus.

“It’s a very important day for our company … it’s not just for the De Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada, but it’s the product of what Rob (McDonald) and I have been dreaming about and talking about and scheming about since 2006 when we first acquired Viking,” said Sherry Brydson, co-owner of De Havilland.

The campus will be located between the City of Chestermere and the Town of Strathmore, roughly 30 minutes east of Calgary.

The entire campus is estimated to take between 10 and 15 years to complete fully, as there are more than 20 individual structures that will comprise the facility.

“We anticipate that some of our suppliers and partners will also set up shop around our campus and we’ll be happy to sell or lease them some property there to ensure there is a seamless supply chain for the new aircraft,” said Brydson.

Should De Havilland’s plan for construction continue as anticipated, construction of the campus will begin as early as 2024, with the first buildings reaching completion in 2025.

Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link spoke during the conference, citing the tremendous impact for the County that De Havilland’s investment will encourage.

“The population of Wheatland County is just under 9,000 people, so a development of this scale is monumental. We do anticipate a number of employees will come from the local region, but we also anticipate that De Havilland is going to draw employees from the urban municipalities surrounding us (and) also from all across Canada and potentially internationally,” said Link. “This will have a profound impact on the future of Wheatland County … for southern Alberta and for rural Alberta.

“For a company to trust that it makes sense to move their headquarters to a rural municipality and to work with our stakeholders and with our residents and with our neighbouring municipalities to move to Wheatland County, there aren’t words to describe how much that means to our community.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke excitedly to De Havilland’s announcement as a tremendous opportunity for the provincial economy.

“This is a banner day for Alberta’s economy, for diversification in this province for manufacturing and most importantly, the aviation sector,” said Kenney. “We Albertans have long known that we need to put the pedal to the medal on diversification (and) that’s exactly what is happening.”

As construction of the campus takes off, De Havilland estimates greater than 1,500 jobs will be created over the course of its development.

More precise timelines regarding the start to construction in the county have yet to be released.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times