01/23/2018 17:08 EST | Updated 01/23/2018 17:08 EST

Airports: Vital Partners In Growth And Prosperity

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Last year, the world's airports served some 7.6 billion travelers connecting friends and family, enabling tourism, facilitating business and acting as engines of social and economic growth. While airports are certainly best known for bringing the world to their passengers' doorsteps, they are much more than simply places where planes land and take off.

Although many may know Toronto Pearson as Canada's largest airport, we are also working hard to ensure best-in-class performance outside of our "bread and butter" aeronautical activities. We believe that, at a fundamental level, airports exist to make life better for the communities in which they operate, and delivering on this mandate requires a passion for making connections that you may never have imagined. As you'll see, Toronto Pearson is gleaning inspiration from some of the best airports in the world, and in the process taking a leading role of our own in nurturing the continued prosperity of our neighbouring communities.

As above, so below

Airports are taking steps to ensure that connections on the ground are just as efficient as they are in the air. Architectural marvels though they may be, airports understand that they are never the final destination; it is vital that upon arrival, passengers are able to move easily and efficiently on the ground to business meetings, tourist attractions or even their homes if they're returning from a trip. Moreover, adequate ground transportation infrastructure helps those working in the communities around the airport commute to their jobs and move more freely about town.

More and more airports are realizing that if they are to fully unlock the potential they possess to drive economic growth in their communities, ensuring effective ground connections must be a priority. Take Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), for example. The operator of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), LAWA has teamed with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on a new transit station that will connect LAX to the regional transit system.

While the Transportation Authority will fund the station, known as the Airport Metro Connector Transit Station, LAWA will build and operate an Automated People Mover to ensure an efficient connection between the station and the airport. The initiative is just part of LAWA's Landside Access Modernization Project (LAMP), which also includes a consolidated rent-a-car facility, multiple intermodal transportation facilities and a comprehensive network of roadway improvements. LAWA cites road congestion as the impetus for the program and notes that LAMP is expected to significantly alleviate the problem, while at the same time enhancing the passenger experience and reducing vehicle emissions, thereby improving air quality.

Connecting people to opportunities

Airports create jobs for residents of the communities within which they operate. Across Europe, for example, there are some 1.7 million people directly employed by airports. When indirect, induced and catalytic job facilitation is taken into consideration, this number balloons to 12.3 million across the continent, accounting €675 billion in GDP (InterVISTAS).

But many airports are going a step further by helping residents develop the skills they need to find gainful employment. Through its Airport Community Fund, Dublin Airport (DUB) has partnered with Dublin City University to provide scholarships to economically disadvantaged students in the surrounding community, giving them a unique opportunity to access post-secondary education.

DUB's commitment goes beyond education to encompass other activities aimed at fostering a thriving community. The airport's fund also supports initiatives in areas such as sports and the arts. Organizations and activities currently supported include St Margaret's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Club, Naomh Mearnóg GAA Club and Swords and Malahide Young Musician of the Year competitions.

Keeping it green

Airports also understand the importance of connecting their operations today with a vision for a sustainable tomorrow. Galapagos Ecological Airport (GPS) has taken its dedication to environmental sustainability to unprecedented levels by becoming the world's first airport to operate entirely from green energy.

The GPS terminal is powered exclusively by solar and wind energy, with the exception of air conditioners that are used to cool the other machinery. The airport also has its own desalination plant, with clean water for use in sinks and recycled water for toilets. Moreover, GPS was constructed using recycled materials, many of which were sourced from the island's old airport.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of Ecogal Corporation—the company that built GPS—is the fact that the project has inspired airports in other parts of the world to go greener. A number of airports in the North America and Europe have begun to rethink their environmental initiatives, and new eco-friendly airports are planned for the Philippines and Mexico.

Closer than you think

Clearly, airports have begun to think outside of the box when it comes to making the connections necessary to foster sustainable growth for their operations and their communities. As Canada's largest airport operating within the second-largest employment area in the entire country outside of downtown Toronto, Pearson is keenly aware that growing together with the GTA, the province of Ontario and Canada is the only sustainable way forward.

Toronto Pearson sees a future where passengers, residents and visitors are connected to the airport and beyond through our proposed regional transit centre, which will effectively link a booming region currently underserved by transit, reduce congestion and drive further economic growth by promoting the efficient movement of people and goods to, from and around the airport.

We see thriving GTA communities that are prepared to embrace the growth that the area is experiencing. Toronto Pearson sits within the second-largest employment zone in the country, with the airport alone employing some 49,000 people and further facilitating 300,000 jobs across the province. Despite this, many communities neighbouring Toronto Pearson face unemployment rates higher than the provincial average. The airport is playing its part through the Propeller Project, its community investment program. Through strategic initiatives that include research, advocacy and programming in the employment sector, Toronto Pearson is helping residents of neighbouring communities bridge the gaps they face to securing meaningful employment.

And finally, we understand that caring for our environment is a huge element of ensuring sustainable growth, both for the airport and for Southern Ontario. YYbeeZ, our honeybee apiary, helps to support food security and sustainable agriculture in the airport's surrounding area, while our environmental management program encompasses energy management, waste management, air quality monitoring, noise mitigation initiatives and more. We are also working with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority on an initiative called Partners in Project Green (PPG) to promote nothing short of a completely new way of doing business—one that promotes environmentally friendly growth and encourages a thriving economy and a flourishing natural environment.

A prosperous future for Toronto Pearson and the communities it serves means different things to different people, and considering these varied perspectives is the only way we can all grow sustainably. Recognizing this need, Toronto Pearson—and indeed many of its counterparts worldwide—has evolved from the more traditional role of infrastructure provider to being a vital partner in prosperity for surrounding communities, businesses and government. Toronto Pearson is proud to be making the connections our city-region needs to continue on a path of mutually beneficial outcomes for years to come.