We don’t have to sign up; we’re already there!

There’s no need for Toronto‘s Pearson International Airport to work toward becoming an aerotropolis.

It already is one.

That’s the word from Toby Lennox, the airport’s vice president, strategy development and stakeholder relations.

He says Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, has already spawned the thick bands of industrial and commercial development that characterize the modern aerotropolis.

“Just drive around the area and you’ll see it’s chockablock with what you’d normally find in an aerotropolis,” says Mr. Lennox of the freight forwarders, cargo terminals and  logistics outfits that now rim the airport.

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Unlike Pearson, the much smaller airport at nearby Hamilton, Ont., has officially embraced the aerotropolis concept.

Yet, this only makes sense, says Mr. Lennox, given Hamilton’s dearth of industrial development.

“It’s just a whole different model from what we have at Pearson,” he explains.

But what happens when there’s no more room left near Pearson for industrial development?

You locate an industry in Mississauga, the booming city (pop. 713,000) on Toronto‘s western flank.

“I wouldn’t necessarily be looking to see a manufacturer locate next to the airport,” says Mr. Lennox. “I may want to put it in Mississauga.”

In fact, Pearson already works closely with that city’s economic development office.

If an aerotropolis is defined by the industrial development to which it’s given rise, Pearson likely ranks with the best.

But if it’s also defined by easy access to rapid transit and high speed rail, Pearson has some catching up to do.

Still, to be fair, the airport is scheduled to be connected to downtown Toronto in 2015 by a custom-built express train.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lennox admits that to make it easier for people from across the greater Toronto area to get to jobs at Pearson, rapid transit will have to be steadily upgraded.

He says this will be particularly important as the airport’s payroll grows to keep pace with an expected boom in passenger traffic.
Now handling 36 million people a year, Pearson is expected to move 24 million more during the next 20-30 years, while its workforce, now 40,000, could hit 60,000 over the next two decades, Mr. Lennox says.

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