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Province’s aerospace focus should stick with Gander, says mayor

The Office of the Citizens’ Representative released a report on March 7. surrounding its investigation into the management practices of Central Health. Gander Mayor Percy Farwell said the report reiterates the “toxic” work environment issues he has been speaking about since being elected in 2017.
After the release of the Mackenzie and Company report about economic diversification, Gander mayor Percy Farwell is expressing concern it could mean serious implications for the central Newfoundland town. The report is recommending a new commercial aircraft facility and training partnerships between PAL and the College of North Atlantic, near St. John’s. - SaltWire File Photo

With Gander being recognized as a “center of excellence” for aerospace and aviation, mayor Percy Farwell has taken exception to the fact the provincial government initiated a report that could see potential development in this sector take place elsewhere.
The study was carried out by McKinsey and Company, and it looks at ways to diversify Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy.
In the report, a recommendation was made for a commercial aircraft facility to boost maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capacity. And to build upon training partnerships between Provincial Airlines and the College of the North Atlantic, namely near St. John’s.
In April, the province announced a $200,000 for a feasibility study. While Gander is mentioned in the report, with its historic background highlighting the province’s significant contributions to aviation, Farwell feels the central Newfoundland town got a passing glance when it came to potential involvement.  Gander’s role, based on the report, would be to continue supporting local demand by adding new seats to training facilities where needed.
Farwell says Gander is the superior choice to continue aerospace development. The town’s history is based solely upon aviation. 
And its current programming offers training in aircraft maintenance and aerospace, aerospace parts manufacturing, flight training and aircraft maintenance repair
“What’s being suggesting is re-developing all this in St. John’s even though it already exists in Gander,” he said.
Furthermore, search and rescue and water bombing operations operate out of Gander.
There’s no commitment from government to act on this recommendation, but Farwell feels it’s under serious consideration.
“It puts us very much on alert, that we are at risk of having government provide support to growing an important industry, which has great potential, elsewhere,” he said. “Without any political considerations it just makes the most sense to do this here.”

Further exploration needed
The findings of the report came as a surprise to returning Gander MHA-elect John Haggie, who had served under the previous Liberal government.
And it’s something he’ll continue to look into, as he too feels Gander is the optimum choice for enhancement of the province’s aerospace industry.
Haggie said Gander’s infrastructure is established to support industry growth, and previous to the report the provincial government had been investing in Gander’s aerospace potential. Haggie said government provided funding for equipment purchases and enhanced enrollment of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technician program at the town’s College of the North Atlantic. It also supported flight training by funding the commercial pilot licensing of 10 students.
“Those are the things we were working on as part of that previous approach, whereby Gander will be and continue to be the centre of aerospace excellence,” Haggie said. “Obviously, if there are opportunities to build further upon that I would really be keen on seeing those come here rather than go anywhere else.”
Haggie said it’s something he’ll be revisiting when the house of assembly resumes.
“I’ve been going back and talking to people in the industry and as well as in the community, I’m not sure what information or advice that recommendation was based on. I haven’t been able to track down anybody who has spoken with the Mackenzie team directly,” he said. “My plan is to continue my investigation into the basis of the report and get clear statements from my colleagues supporting our work here in Gander.”

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