Hamilton's biggest air cargo operator is building a $4-million aircraft maintenance hangar at Hamilton International, to work on its 10-plane fleet of Boeing 727 cargo jets that fly in and out of the city.
The Cargojet Airways project signals a commitment to a long-term relationship with the airport, said Jamie Porteous, vice-president of sales and service for Cargojet.
"Hamilton International has a good reputation and has a lot of support from cargo operators. This move helps solidify its future as a major cargo airport in Canada."
The company has about 120 employees in Hamilton and that could jump by about 20 per cent when construction is complete in February, Porteous said.
The new hangar will allow the company to perform routine maintenance and checks, as well as major overhauls on its fleet.
Currently, that work is done either right on the tarmac - not an appealing option in winter - or contracted out to cargo operators in other airports.
The company moves about 500,000 pounds of cargo to 13 Canadian cities out of Hamilton any given night.
The company ships overnight for major couriers, freight forwarders and manufacturers, especially the automotive industry. In addition to freight, the company has two passenger jets which fly under the Starjet Canada banner.
They are 60-seat first-class charter jets primarily used by professional sports teams and corporations.
The new hangar is being built to accommodate the much larger Boeing 757 jets that the company is expecting to acquire in the future.
Cargojet will consolidate its office and warehouse space at the airport into the hangar but will maintain its head office in Mississauga.
The new hangar was heralded by the airport's operators and city officials who gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.
"This reinforces the importance of this area as a gateway for the movement of goods," said Stoney Creek MP Tony Valeri, a former transport minister.
"This is a growing business and they're growing it with the airport," said John Gibson, vice-president of marketing for TradePort, the group that runs John C. Munro International Airport.
"This gives them an anchor and gives us some assurance that they're going to operate at least the majority of their flights out of Hamilton."
Mayor Larry Di Ianni said improvements to Highway 6 - slated to be complete next month - and a future airport link from the Red Hill Creek Expressway "will make our airport boom."
Cargojet launched 900 flights last year from Hamilton and has eclipsed that mark by more than 400 this year.
That has kept the airport's cargo business going strong despite the loss of FedEx to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto early this year, said Gibson.
It has also helped to keep Hamilton International at the top of the heap of cargo airports. And while passenger service grabs most of the attention, cargo business creates about four times as many jobs, said Gibson.