Bombardier considering Downsview sale

AvatarBy Ben Forrest | January 15, 2018

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 58 seconds.

Bombardier is reportedly considering selling its massive aircraft manufacturing site in the Toronto suburb of Downsview, part of a five-year turnaround plan that could see manufacturing jobs shift elsewhere.

Aerial view of Downsview Airport
The Downsview site is a sprawling property that includes Downview Airport and its 7,000-foot runway. Airport Watch Canada Photo

The company said it put its 152-hectare Downsview Airport location up for sale a couple of weeks ago as part of its financial turnaround plan, the Canadian Press reported.

Bombardier’s Downsview facility employs 3,500 people and is dedicated to manufacturing the Q400 turboprop and Global business jets.

The company said it has not decided if and where to relocate, but a spokesperson indicated some of the production could potentially be moved to Toronto Pearson International Airport, according to the Toronto Star.

Two business jets, one flying and one on the ground.
Bombardier’s Downsview manufacturing site produces business jets like the Global 7000 (pictured) and the Q400 turboprop. Andy Cline Photo

Downsview is also part of an aerospace hub that includes a new $78 million aerospace campus for Centennial College that is now under construction. The provincial and federal governments allocated $44.2 million toward that project in 2016.

Andrew Petrou, the executive director of Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research at Centennial, said the facility is “not contingent” on Bombardier’s continued presence, according to the Globe and Mail.

Bombardier said in a statement it has been reviewing its facilities worldwide, including Downsview, “to ensure we have the most efficient and cost effective operations necessary to support our growth objectives.

“We remain committed to strongly supporting the Ontario aerospace industry and the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research Initiative, as we look at options for our Downsview site.”

A Bombardier Global 7000 rests against the Toronto skyline.
A Bombardier Global 7000 is pictured against the Toronto skyline. Toronto’s overheated real estate market has seen property values skyrocket in recent years. Andy Cline Photo

The company noted it only uses about 10 per cent of the Downsview site, and bears the entire cost of operating a 7,000-foot runway.

Bombardier has been at Downsview since 1992, when it acquired a de Havilland operation from Boeing that had been on the property since 1928.

In 2004, Bombardier said it was “committed” to the Downsview aircraft plant, which at one point was Toronto’s single largest industrial employer.

But a great deal has changed since then, including months of turmoil sparked by the United States government’s decision to slap massive tariffs on Bombardier C Series jets sold in the U.S.

That decision prompted Bombardier to cede a controlling interest in the C Series program to Airbus, with speculation it would open up new markets and potentially help Bombardier avoid the import tariffs.

Bombardier spokesperson Olivier Marcil reportedly told the Star the industrial site could be rezoned for mixed use, including residential, creating a “win-win” for all stakeholders.

“We understand that the property’s unique location, proximity to public transit, major highways, universities and shopping make it an ideal location for employment and other uses,” the company said in a statement.  “We will work with all stakeholders throughout our review process.”

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