Unlocking airport land to meet cargo demand long-term

With miles of runways, fields as far as you can see and buildings of all shapes serving different functions, the YWG campus is a city of its own and each acre of land has a role to play in serving the region.

At the end of Sargent Avenue, just past Flight Road, is where Winnipeg Richardson International Airport’s cargo campus lives and thrives. Over time, through strategic investment and planning, Winnipeg has evolved into an overnight cargo hub integral to Canada’s air freight network. This established position as a freight leader became increasingly critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic as more people ordered goods online, PPE shipments arrived for frontline workers and vaccines steadily moved through the airport. Since 2016, the number of cargo movements at the airport has increased each year, further complimented by a decade-long trend of seeing larger aircraft to facilitate the movement of goods in and out of Manitoba. To support this steady growth and critical industry, a major cargo expansion is underway to meet the needs of the region long term.

The construction of the Ground Services Equipment (GSE) Building marks the first piece of many in YWG’s planned cargo expansion. The 96,175-square-foot facility opened in 2020 and began welcoming several tenants into the space throughout the year. These tenants were previously based within the cargo campus, although they delivered services for passenger aircraft. WAA in collaboration with CATSA created a security feature unique to this building, that allows for a seamless transition of employees, goods, and services in close proximity to their daily operations, saving time and fuel. Meanwhile, their vacated spaces free up prime serviced real estate in the heart of YWG’s cargo campus.

When it comes to importing and exporting essential goods, time is paramount. While individuals, businesses and industries rely on fast deliveries, time-sensitive goods also need to be moved and stored as efficiently as possible, such as food shipments on route to Canada’s North. Each minute and mile count in the cargo business yet there is a finite amount of space close to where cargo planes are unloaded and reloaded at the airport. The multi-phase expansion plan aims to maximize those extremely valuable square metres to help all partners operate smoothly in line with the growing demand.

“From a real-estate perspective, we need to ensure this relatively small, serviced parcel of land within the cargo campus is utilized in the most efficient manner to benefit airport partners now and in future years ,” said Robert Bachart, Director of Real Estate at Airport City Winnipeg, a wholly-owned WAA subsidiary. “The upcoming cargo expansion involves streamlining the maneuvering areas on the airfield, such as on the ramps and aprons, as well as the overall groundside circulation, which will in turn effect positive change for the building design, making the most out of the overall footprint.”

The next phase of development involves clearing a path for a new 140,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. As some tenants moved into a customized home inside the GSE Building, others are in the process of relocating to help vacate the 115,000-square-foot Air Canada Cargo building. This structure is going to be demolished later this year to make space for the new Multi-Tenant Air Cargo Logistics Facility, which is funded in part by a $30-million investment from the federal government under the National Trade Corridors Fund. The investment of government funding, announced in 2019, further acknowledges and secures YWG’s status as a cargo powerhouse in the centre of the country.

In the near future, the Multi-Tenant Air Cargo Logistics Facility will allow several cargo partners to be situated only steps away from where freighter aircraft are positioned, supporting quick distribution and resupply of time sensitive goods. The modern, specialized facility will also better suit operational needs related to cold storage capabilities, a livestock handling area along with additional air cargo capacity.

While this infrastructure redevelopment, along with the surrounding cargo facilities at YWG, make up only a small portion of the airport campus, collectively, they generate a huge benefit for the region. If you recently got a COVID-19 vaccine, had a parcel show up at your door or received industry equipment, the cargo sector helped support those valuable services. As a powerful force helping drive our local economy, the recent steps towards the cargo expansion at YWG put Winnipeg ever closer to being set up for long-term success and will continue to attract new business while growing its overnight freight footprint.

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