Stephenville Airport deal signed

·13 min read

SOUTHWEST COAST – The Stephenville Airport deal has been signed, sealed and delivered, confirmed Carl Dymond, CEO of Dymond Group of Companies.

“We signed for the Airport today!,” stated Dymond via text message last Tuesday afternoon, June 28.

Dymond first announced his intention to purchase the Stephenville airport Sept. 9, 2021. Few details on the progress of the sale have been made public since then, prompting plenty of skepticism.

The airport’s website, www.cyjt.com, has already gone live, prior to any official news release by the Town of Stephenville or the Dymond Group of Companies.

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose has long been a staunch supporter of the airport sale to Dymond and the Greater Newfoundland and Labrador Partnership (GNLP).

“I’m very, very, very happy because it breathes new life; a new business plan. It’s an entrepreneur with a vision and the vision is where aerospace is going today. Drones, satellites are big, and the infrastructure that we have here at this airport, built by the US core of engineers, one of the best pieces of infrastructure in North America. It’s paying dividends now for the community, for the province, and for the country.”

Even in the face of delays and public concerns expressed since the announcement last September, Rose never once wavered in his belief that the deal would go through.

“My role is to stay focused, stay positive on the file until there is an absolute saying it’s not going to happen, and to me, I understood the business file pretty good. I understand aerospace and aviation. I started my career as an air traffic controller in the Air Force. I know a little bit about the industry. I’m the former chair of the Airport Authority, the first chairperson in 1990, and it’s interesting. I was 30 years old when I was the first chair of the Airport Authority and the current chairperson, Trevor Murphy, is 30 years old and he’s the chair who made this deal happen. It was a big day for Stephenville, a big day for our council, a big day for the residents of this town, and it breathes new life, new jobs, new economics, and it gives us pride.”

The next steps for the airport will begin with the closing date, when the deed of transfer switches.

“Just like buying a house, funds have to be transferred within the framework of the deal. Then Carl Dymond and his team will start the process of their project management. With all this, there’s engineering that has to happen, capital, tenders, and contracts. So as quick as Carl Dymond and the Greater NL Partnership can start issuing tenders and putting some tangible evidence on the airfield, it’s going to be well welcomed by the community.”

Rose said the fact that Carl Dymond will be taking the airport out of debt is something else that will happen and, even though it won’t be something people can see, it is something to be excited about.

“It’s not like seeing a building being built on the airport, but it’s very, very important because, up to this point, the Town of Stephenville and its council have been using taxpayer money to keep their airport open, and it was a great investment because look where we are today. It showed leadership, not just on this council, but on previous councils that I’ve been part of, and previous councils that I wasn’t part of. We never stopped believing in the airport, but it was to the point that the infrastructure needed new investment, new capital, new corporate abilities, and a network of companies that can actually monetize and make this airport something of value.”

Rose said the benefits for the Town are going to be significant.

“It’s going to be a big savings for taxpayers, revenue for taxpayers, good paying jobs, social/economic benefits to the community, and it’s going to be about family. There may be opportunities for families that – whether it’s a spouse having to go away for rotation and be away from their family, there may be opportunities where they can now look at working in Stephenville. I’m really excited. I’m glad to be a part of it. It was a long 14 months, but when the announcement happened from September to now, for it to happen this fast, it’s really good.”

Rose said there were a lot of people who supported this file, and they all deserve a major thank you.

“I want to say thanks for the support from myself and council. I speak on behalf of council and I want to thank them for supporting us and never giving up. The only thing I’ll say to people who were not in support of it, just give it some time and see the benefits that’s going to come in the future. They played a role too. They helped maybe increase the level of due diligence."

Carl Dymond believes the announcement was momentous for everyone involved.

“For the Dymond Group as a whole, and really for GNLP, the Greater Newfoundland and Labrador Partnership, and for the Town of Stephenville, we are very happy about the announcement.”

Dymond said that overall the deal went through rather quickly, but it seemed like a long time because it was playing out in the public.

“There were a lot of things we had to take care of with the airport. We worked with some volunteers on the airport board who have given their time and their effort, their blood, sweat and tears to make this work. So the airport board is so good to us, and we really got it over the line yesterday (June 28) and are very happy with it.”

Next on the agenda is the airport lighting project. Dymond said the airport is already compliant with lighting standards, but they will be making modernizations.

“We have to replace the incandescent bulbs with LEDs, make sure that everything is working on there and move them out a bit from the runway, so that we’re giving the bigger aircraft that will eventually be coming in more room to maneuver on the actual runway itself. That’s our first plan. The terminal design is well in motion. We’re not exactly sure when we are going to start. It’s depending on materials that are available to us because there is a global shortage post-pandemic, but we are working to meet all of those supply-chain challenges that we have now.”

An air traffic control tower had also been purchased; however, Dymond said, due to year-long delays with the computer and microchips for the tower, it has been cancelled. It is actually not a requirement for the Stephenville airport to have an air traffic control tower.

“Of course, we would like to have one to have visibility on the runway, but we’re now incorporating it into our terminal design. So, there will be an air traffic control tower on top of there. The responsibility of air traffic control falls to Gander because that’s who controls it for everywhere. St. John’s has their own, but Gander controls it for us and Deer Lake. We’ll have one on there for real-time visibility, but it’s not a requirement for us unless we’re having 25 aircraft movements an hour.”

Dymond said they have always tried to be professional, and noted there has been quite a bit of silence from the naysayers lately.

“I’m not going to get down in the trenches and argue with people who just have an uninformed opinion. That’s okay. Luckily we get to live in a democracy where they can say whatever they want. Some things have consequences, but for the most part people are just sharing their opinions that were uninformed as much as they could be. They didn’t bother to learn the truth. It’s how it all works.”

Now that the deal has been signed, Dymond feels vindicated.

“I don’t mind taking the personal/professional hits online because I’m working so that the four-year-olds and the five-year-olds and the fourteen and fifteen-year-olds will only know opportunity from here on out. That’s what I did this for. We’re not taking any tax dollars for what we’re doing. We’re doing this all with private money. I want our children to grow up only knowing opportunity,” said Dymond. “The opportunities that the young people in Stephenville and surrounding area will have now are exponentially better than they were two months ago.”

He hopes to inspire young kids so they no longer choose to go to Alberta to find a good career once they finish their education.

“We want everyone who wants to work, to work, earn a good wage at a good job and have that peace and security that we’re not going to pick up shop and leave next year.”

The Stephenville Dymond International Airport website is now open and accepting resumes for future positions.

“We’re building a very complex matrix of exactly what we need and when we need it. Of course, we’re going to need the plumbers, electricians, and millwrights to start. That’s who is going to be doing our initial work on the terminal, on the apron revitalization, on the lighting projects, and then, as the university and colleges come into town again, we’re working with them now to design courses and bring courses in from different places so that we can have all the expertise being built locally. We want to give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the right of first refusal when it comes to work.”

Dymond said that is exactly why they created the GNLP.

“It’s not a partnership between corporations in Newfoundland, it’s a partnership between my company and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to say, not only are we not taking your tax dollars, we’re giving you guys the opportunity to help us build this for the benefit of future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

The corporation is looking at a minimum of 2,500 employees over the course of the project, and they are designing a new terminal with 200,000 square feet, which is bigger than even St. John’s.

“We are trying to future-proof this airport so that when we do finally get our legs under us, we don’t have to scramble to build and have people have to put up with construction. We’re building it in phases, so that it will be done right the first time. And looking at that, how many people have to work in that airport? Look at the people who work out in St. John’s. They are littered with employees every day. We are also looking at the drone manufacturing facility, all the carpenters, millwrights, electricians, plumbers. They’re all going to have to work on the terminal first. Once that’s complete, then they move over to the manufacturing facility.”

Dymond said other opportunities will be explored as well, including the possibility of a paint shop for airplanes.

“There’s a six to eight month wait to get a plane painted these days and that’s actually slowing down airlines, believe it or not, waiting for a paint job. There is a market for it.”

It won’t just be the Dymond Group that is hiring. Other companies and organizations will be developing as well, and Dymond says staff will be selected by surname and qualifications only so as to avoid skewing towards any one particular demographic.

“All of those places need to be staffed too and we want to do it in the right way so that everyone has equal opportunity to be able to work.”

With the Stephenville deal finally reaching it’s end, Dymond doesn’t have plans to make any moves on the Port of Stephenville, which has also been listed as for sale. In fact, it is his understanding that it has been conditionally sold to Horizon Maritime.

“We’ve worked with them once already. They’ve been very courteous to us and understanding where we were in our airport purchase. If the port is available, by all means, but we are very happy to work with Mr. Risley and his group. They obviously have a lot of good experience. We’re a young company. They’re more of a mature company, so I know I can learn a lot from Mr. Risley and how he conducts business. We are excited for them, and we hope it makes our airport more viable.”

Even though the port seems to be moving forward with another organization, it was recently announced that Dymond Group of Companies entered into a tentative agreement with Urban-Air Port, a UK based company that builds vertiports, and the deal was on hold until the Stephenville deal was finalized.

Dymond said they have been working with them for approximately six months, but they needed to concentrate on the airport deal first. The goal is to put a vertiport in Stephenville in the future, which would make it the first in Canada.

Dymond said he believes the message is very positive going forward.

“The more bums in seats, the more airlines are enticed to come in and I know a lot of them were not happy with what they’ve seen online. It was essentially a hot potato, what we were for a little while, because of the negative comments, but now that we own the airport, we want to entice these airlines to come in. Showing them a new terminal design, updated and fresh taxiways and aprons, those really are the things we are looking at doing now. If you build it, they will come.”

Further down the coast, Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button, said he is excited to see the airport deal finalized and that his town is ready if there is anything it can do or help with to help the project continue to move forward or become even bigger.

“We’re excited to see that hopefully everything comes to fruition. Now that the sale is completed, at least now it looks like we’re on a go forward. What’s good for the airport in Stephenville is good for the Port Aux Basques region, having another corridor, another access that we could have through Stephenville. Stephenville was a vital piece with the airport for many years and since it’s been downsized, since it’s been gone, it’s certainly been missed, especially when it comes to travel. When you’re trying to talk to interested parties that might be looking at your area to do business, having an airport that close to you is certainly a benefit and I think it’s exciting news.”

Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News

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