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YOW putting greater emphasis on leisure travel and connecting passengers, says departing CEO

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The airport authority is adding more electric vehicles to its fleet, rolling out additional charging stations and bidding to use 500 acres for a massive solar farm.

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The president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority, Mark Laroche, has announced his retirement while sharing plans for the upcoming expansion of the capital city’s airport.

“It was a very difficult decision but I thought the timing was right as we are on the cusp of pursuing another major terminal expansion,” Laroche, who took on the role in 2013, said at YOW’s annual public meeting on Wednesday. “I will leave the authority in very capable hands and the team will ensure a smooth transition when the time comes.”

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Laroche is stepping down after what he said was a “solid year” after a few challenging years.

“We are recovered. Our business, however, has changed,” Laroche said at the meeting. “The return to better financial health afforded us the opportunity to resume some projects after being on hold indefinitely.”

In 2023, the airport served 4.1 million passengers and reached net earnings of $10.6 million, according to the Ottawa International Airport Authority. The Canal Market Hall food court and Big Rig Kitchen & Brewery opened, ground broke on the Alt Hotel Ottawa Airport and the construction of the Airport Station and integration with the city’s platform and light rail transit airport spur was completed.

YOW also saw flight expansions, with Air France beginning non-stop service to Paris, and Porter Airlines introduced its hangar construction project.

Mark Laroche
Mark Laroche, president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority, announced his retirement Wednesday. Photo by Catherine Morrison /Postmedia

Projects include its information technology modernization program, expected to be completed in 2024, to mitigate operational risk and enhance the authority’s cyber security program. There are plans to build some new coffee shops in the airport and convert the D’Arcy McGee’s into a

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The authority is taking a longterm view of the airport’s infrastructure development in light of new traffic profiles that “put greater emphasis on leisure travel and connecting passengers,” said Laroche.

“We have launched a comprehensive series of studies aimed at assessing and forecasting growth over the next decade and beyond,” he said. The authority has hired a new vice-president to oversee the work.

“We are exploring everything from optimizing existing space and new technology to the need for additional capacity and a significant expansion program,” said Laroche.

The airport authority is also working to add more electric vehicles to its fleet, roll out additional charging stations and is bidding to use 500 acres of its land to use for a massive solar farm.

“Based on similar size projects, our preliminary estimate is that approximately 250,000 solar panels could be installed on different parcels of land,” Laroche said, adding that the authority is at the beginning of a competitive process.

“The energy produced by this large solar generation plant would provide the equivalent electricity required by more than 20,000 households.”

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In an interview after the meeting, Laroche said the authority was hoping to submit a bid “with the right partner.” The farm would be located on excess property along the runway and wouldn’t require any clear-cutting. He said the airport authority is working to prepare a bid, estimates, an analysis and studies. It will then consult with the community. Laroche hopes that First Nations will be an equity partner in the project.

The process to find his replacement was already underway. The new CEO could be in place by the fall, said Laroche.

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