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This article was published 21/9/2010 (3684 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Global Aerospace Centre for Icing and Environmental Research Inc. (GLACIER) is just weeks from opening and there is already a buzz growing in the global aerospace industry over the mammoth cold-weather engine-testing facility just outside of Thompson.
There is also talk about spinoffs and add-on work that will go on in Thompson and elsewhere in the province.
GLACIER is a $40-million joint venture partnership between aerospace engine manufacturers Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce and the National Research Council of Canada. The province also provided a $9-million loan.
Organizers are hoping to attract Premier Greg Selinger and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the ribbon-cutting in mid-October.
Vic Gerden, executive director of the Manitoba Aerospace Industry Association, said people in the global industry are talking about GLACIER, even though it is still a couple of weeks away from receiving its first engine for testing.
"It is a unique facility that will be well utilized," he said. "It is already being touted in the industry and people are already talking about Thompson. It's one more opportunity for the aerospace industry in our province."
The development was prompted by more stringent and detailed aircraft engine safety certifications as well as the poor state of repair of cold-weather-testing facilities elsewhere in the world. The NRC is recognized as an international leader in ice crystal research, much of which was carried out in labs in Ottawa in the past.
Bob Hastings, executive director CanETREC (Canadian Environmental Test Research and Education Centre), a non-profit organization that is managing training and business development for the site, said, "This facility will be the only one in the world capable of doing ice crystal-ingesting testing."
But he said there is talk of doing cold-weather fuel-line testing and designers believe the facility will become useful for other cold-weather testing for the bus and auto manufacturing industry. It is expected to be used year-round.
The Thompson location was selected for a few reasons. The city has good air, rail and truck access and has established itself as a cold-weather test site for several automobile manufacturers.
Ford has done cold-weather testing in Thompson since the mid-1980s and since then Land Rover, Volvo, Chrysler, Hummer, Jaguar, Porsche, Honda and Mercedes-Benz have all run tests in Thompson, as well as Bell helicopters, Cessna aircraft and Navistar engines. Polaris, Bombardier, Yamaha and Arctic Cat snowmobiles have all availed themselves of the facilities and the cold-winter temperatures in Thompson.
Mark Matiasek, general manager of Thompson Unlimited, Thompson's economic development agency, said the northern Manitoba city has already benefited from some new residents.
"And there will be more," he said. "When the engines come up for their testing they will be accompanied by technicians and engineers."
It is expected to provide a bump to the gross domestic product of the city and will boost the local labour force by at least 20 full-time employees. Long-term plans are to erect a second test cell that would require that much higher employment numbers.
People involved in the Manitoba aerospace industry are excited about the addition of GLACIER to the portfolio of facilities in the province. Manitoba has a strong industrial infrastructure for aerospace engine maintenance and overhaul, and is the operational headquarters for StandardAero, the largest independent gas turbine engine repair operation in the world.
It's also one more element to the northern economic growth machine that includes a Manitoba Hydro dam under construction just west of Thompson and construction of a $550-million mine near Snow Lake.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
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