Edmonton International Airport – The Community Airport

Vice-President Myron Keehn talks about Edmonton International Airport, its plans for sustainable expansion, & the community spirit the company encourages.

Myron Keehn spoke about the strong vision for the future of the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) and how the airport will help to spur advances in sustainable transportation and economic development. “Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is a not-for-profit. We are not a typical airport. Our job is to drive economic development and create jobs in Edmonton and Canada as a whole. My role is to drive air service and all revenue-related business development as well as stakeholder relations and ESG,” he states.

One issue that has concerned people about air travel is sustainability. This is something that Keehn believes EIA can address, both as a company and in partnership with other organisations. “Sustainability is the biggest issue we are facing after COVID-19. We are the only major airport signed on to The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, in a commitment to net zero carbon by 2040. We are also in partnership with Air Canada, which is the first sustainability partnership between an airport and airline globally, to reduce carbon emissions and advance a sustainable and green aviation sector. This includes the electrification of aviation equipment, replacements of single-use plastics with plant fibre, and using drones for e-commerce and cargo delivery,” Keehn explains.

EIA’s sustainability activities go beyond airport operations. What’s unique about EIA is that we have taken our large landmass and developed what we call the Airport City Sustainability Campus. This is an integrated ecosystem that spurs collaboration and innovation and fosters the commercialization of emerging clean technologies. “In partnership with Alpin Sun, we will have the world’s largest airport-based solar farm. The airport only needs so much energy, the rest goes toward low carbon energy for the community. When we look at what we build or how we build, we embed ESG principles in all our decision making.  We always strive to be as sustainable as possible,” Keehn says. EIA has also recently partnered with Innovative Fuel Systems (IFS) and KAG Canada to become more energy-efficient, with IFS’ technology reported to reduce certain emissions in heavy-duty trucks by 45 per cent.

Building a Community

Keehn believes the company is well-poised to lead and demonstrate a green and sustainable aviation sector, “We want air travel to be done responsibly and sustainably. We want to help drive forward systemic change.”

The world is changing. Businesses globally are rebuilding and evolving. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we looked at our processes to adapt and position ourselves for the post-COVD recovery. Aviation will be different after COVID and our airport is looking towards the future,” he states.

Improving processes also apply to how they look at potential employees. “Our team is the secret sauce – I always say as a good leader you work for the team, not the other way round. Any success comes from building the right team – people can be trained in terms of skills, but they need to have the right attitude and values to do what is best for the community and business. We are looking to grow and develop careers that in turn contribute to the community around us, making EIA a positive place to work. We want people to feel they are part of something bigger,” Keehn explains.

Keehn is not just passionate about the airport, but also Edmonton as a whole. “Edmonton as a city is a melting pot with over 1.4 million people speaking over 100 languages. There are a lot of young, highly educated people out there and it is so enlightening to meet different people,” he says.

Providing Support

While a lot of companies provide charity and community support, EIA is proactive when it comes to giving back. “EIA supports over 100 organisations, including shelters for vulnerable women and children. For example, our retail partners recently donated backpacks while our catering partners provided food donations to the local food bank. We have drivers that provide transportation for senior citizens and children who need to get to school,” Keehn outlines.

There is also a dedication to improving aspirations for people in the local area, including women, people from an ethnic minority background, and Indigenous Peoples. “We are partnering with our local Indigenous communities as well as encourage creative talent through our art program by giving them a platform that they may not otherwise have. We have also worked on encouraging entrepreneurship, including within the Indigenous community,” Keehn further explains.

Keehn also states how EIA has created a “living lab” for new and emerging businesses to pilot and test their technologies and ideas.  “While I am proud of working for the airport, I am most proud of the five business incubators we have on-site. We have dedicated 170,000 square feet specifically to help businesses grow and scale-up. We have an ecosystem with companies from all sectors, including food, pharma, and autonomous systems. We also started the Ag-celerator, which is a certified food production and contract packaging (copack) with a business and market development accelerator for growing food companies.  We are also using the space to empower more women and minorities to pursue careers in aviation in partnership with Elevate Aviation, so they can explore career paths such as air traffic controller, pilot,  maintenance engineer and so forth,” he states.

A Better Future

While the last few years have been challenging, Keehn is optimistic in terms of the future, both for EIA and Edmonton as a whole. “Working with great partners is key to making this brighter future a reality. We strive to make our airport campus a destination of its own. Hotels, restaurants, recreation, shopping, and entertainment including Century Mile Casino, a premier destination for horse racing fans holding thoroughbred and standardbred racing year-round, make EIA a must-visit for travellers as well as members of our community.

“In the three years before COVID-19, our ecosystem resulted in 13,000 new jobs. We have attracted over CAD 1.5 billion in private investment. Now things are starting to get back to normal, our major ambition is to decouple growth from emissions. We use an ESG approach to our business development of EIA’s Airport City Sustainability Campus. Developers such as Pannattoni and Terracap as well as property managers ONE Properties are instrumental partners in the development of our campus. Their commitment and quality service deliver exceptional results that align with our sustainable goals for our future developments and tenants.

Edmonton is the second largest airspace in the world with uncongested facilities. We are one of the fastest-growing cargo airports in Canada. Partners including Executive Flight Centre, provide the facilities and services required to move not only passengers but cargo as well, ensuring the reliable movement of goods in the dynamic world of shipping and logistics. EIA plays a critical role in global supply chains as a major hub for the movement of medical supplies, food, and e-commerce across North America and into remote communities and the Canadian North. With our cargo developments, we are also helping businesses by providing lower-cost air capacity to access global markets,” he explains. “In 2021, EIA became the first Canadian airport with scheduled drone cargo delivery. EIA is at the forefront of modernizing logistics by integrating innovations in drones and other emerging technologies in our cargo hub to strengthen global supply chains.”

In recent times, EIA has achieved a few significant milestones. Growth is important for Keehn and EIA but he believes that this will not come at the cost of increased emissions. “Before COVID-19 and for the past 20 years, we have created an energy management program to reduce emissions. For example, we cut the energy intensity of the air terminal building by 50%, while doubling the size of the building.  We have co-generation units on site that reduce our emissions by 20%. We are also incorporating other sustainable initiatives, such as nature-based solutions, hydrogen, and hemp. We have been doing this for a long time and are leading the way to green airport operations globally,” Keehn strongly emphasises.

Ultimately, Keehn believes that EIA represents a community and that everyone can play their part as he finally states, “The old cliché is true – it takes a village to raise a child! EIA is not simply a regional transportation utility; rather, it also serves as a key economic driver. Our ecosystem fosters innovation and the opportunity for local companies to expand and access new markets as well as attract private investment partners who share the same core values and promote clean growth for a prosperous future.”

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