The end product of drafting plans for the design of the proposed new airport for nearly a year were unveiled by Government on Thursday, at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute [BUEI].

Flanked by the Minister of Transport, Michael Fahy and representatives of the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and Aecon Group, Finance Minister Bob Richards said groundbreaking for the new multi-million dollar project is still on target to take place around Christmas.

The new facility will take 40 months to build. For the Minister of Finance, that translates into more permanent jobs for Bermudians.

While stressing that it’s important to explain the plus factors to local residents, he said it is also “vital that we first get the financial deal that is right for Bermuda – the one that works best for us, considering our financial predicament – a predicament by the way that this island will face for many years”.

“Once we get our fiscal house in order – and stop paying out every year more than we take in – we will still then need to wipe out the accumulated debt.

“Even against that backdrop, the need for a new airport is pressing. It has been urgent for some time. And the more I speak to Bermudians across the island, it is clear that once presented with the facts, they understand the importance of this development.

“One of the major hurdles for Bermuda, was finding a way to pay for this crucial project. Debt is already at an alarming level, so traditional borrowing is out of the question.

“Finding a deal by the customary route is not feasible. Not only don’t we have the money, there would be no way of controlling the escalating cost of building in Bermuda, which has been the experience of the past,” said Mr Richards.

“After looking at this from all angles, we know this is the best way to move forward for the country, acquiring an important and high quality asset on favourable terms, while providing the breathing room to continue chipping away at the government’s annual deficit – to advance our interests through a useful relationship with the Canadian Government.”

President of Aecon Concessions, Steve Nackan said the redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport places Bermuda on the brink of a new “exciting era with investment in hotel renovations and developments, the America’s Cup and casinos, to name just a few, and, of course, a state-of-the-art airport”.

“This is a design that our architects and engineers – in close collaboration with the Department of Airport Operations and its advisors – have been working on for almost a year,” said Mr Nackan.

“Together we’ve strived to reflect Bermuda’s vision of an airport that is First Class, First Tier, First World – and is consistent with Bermuda’s global brand and identity.”

He noted that the structure of the new airport will be “set back and situated on higher ground to reduce flooding risk” and “will take advantage of natural light while sheltering the space from the elements and therefore saving energy costs”.

“The next step is to move the design to the next level and prepare for financing and construction startup – and to demonstrate – as we’re seeing across the globe – how investing in infrastructure projects like this can help shape a destination’s image and stimulate its economy.”

He also discussed the employment opportunities for Bermudians. “There is no doubt that the airport will be a vital generator of local employment opportunities, both in construction – where we will hire local companies – and in operations – where the majority of employees will be Bermudian,” said Mr Nackan.

“As you will have seen, already we have retained several local firms to conduct studies and do all sorts of preliminary work for us – and during the course of construction, we expect to have as many as several hundred construction workers on site.

“We are already working with the Department of Workforce Development to analyse local capacity across many trades and disciplines.

“With regard to airport operations, we will offer employment to all current Department of Airport Operations staff. And we expect to expand that organisation to meet the enhanced requirements of the Project. Simply put, what this means is more permanent jobs for Bermudians,” he added.

“Our philosophy at Aecon is to hire and train local employees and develop Corporate Social Responsibility programmes such as mentorships and community engagement projects, and we plan to do so again with this project.

“Furthermore, once completed, the airport will generate additional employment over the long-term, particularly through indirect jobs as a result of economic stimulation or induced benefits and the extended aura of economic activity that occurs around a significant infrastructure project.

“We also feel confident that a significant investment in airport development will send a clear signal to international investors and tourism infrastructure investors that Bermuda means business,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Fahy said: “We continue to operate our existing airport facilities, which are deteriorating on a daily basis and have outlived their life expectancy, and we further compromise our reputation to serve the customers who keep our island afloat economically. We’re not just designing an airport. We’re building Bermuda’s future.

“The design not only brings Bermuda’s airport facility up-to-date operationally and aesthetically, but the modular approach means it can adapt to future needs and further expansion, such as additional gates for increased airline service.

“We’re not only using current materials and technology, but we’re also thinking ahead to Bermuda’s new era as an international tourist and business destination. I would like to thank Aecon for developing such a creative design that also represents Bermuda and who we are as a people.

“This airport belongs to the people of Bermuda and should be a monument to our vision of who we are and where we’re going as a country that relies so much on travel.”

CCC President Martin Zablocki said after months of planning and consultations: “It is really a joy to see all that effort finally bear fruit.

“Canada and Bermuda have a lengthy and storied friendship that began with a common ancestry and heritage. Today, our economies support $3.5 billion of two-way trade. This trade supports about 25,000 jobs in Canada alone, and many more here on the island,” he said.

“It is interesting – and appropriate, today – to note that flights between Canada and Bermuda originally began in 1948….just two years after the Canadian Commercial Corporation was created by the Government of Canada.

“Today, Air Canada continues to play a major role in Canada-Bermuda business tourism – serving Bermuda on a daily basis year round.

“The redevelopment of L.F. Wade International Airport will build upon the collaborative relationship our countries have enjoyed for decades.”

“Every CCC contract comes with a guarantee of contract performance, fully backed by the Government of Canada,” he said. This guarantee provides Bermudians with the assurance that the airport will be delivered – on time, on budget, and in accordance with the agreed upon terms and conditions.

“As part of the government-to government contract, the Canadian Commercial Corporation will provide ongoing project oversight, ensuring all contract milestones are met.”

The exhibit of designs will spend three days –Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the BUEI, to allow Bermudians living and working in the central parishes to get a true sense of the plan for a new terminal building.

It will then be taken on Monday evening for a couple of hours starting at 5.30 pm, to Bella Vista Bar & Grill, Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton for folks in the west end.

On Tuesday evening, again for a couple of hours starting at 5.30pm it will be at Penno’s Wharf Cruise Ship Terminal, St George’s for those in the east end.

“I encourage everyone to come out and meet some of the people involved and ask questions so that you can truly understand the unique value of the proposals and the design,” said Mr Richards.

A made-scale-model of the new airport is being flown in this week to be unveiled next week “to help everyone have a visual of what the new airport would look like.”

And there’s a video of the proposed new airport, created by Aecon, that has also shows three-dimensional architectural renderings of the airport, as well as a fly-through model outlining key features and amenities.

By Ceola Wilson