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Dymond deal done

Stephenville airport ownership transferred to Dymond Group

Workers change the Stephenville Airport sign to reflect its change of ownership and rebranding to Stephenville Dymond International Airport last week. — Submitted photo

By Rosalyn Roy Senior Staff Reporter – with files from Jaymie White

STEPHENVILLE – After almost two years of wheeling and dealing, the Dymond Group of Companies has been transferred ownership of the Stephenville Airport from the Stephenville Airport Corporation. The deal was first announced in September 2021. The announcement came via a company press release on Monday morning, Aug. 28. “We’re excited to announce a milestone as we confirm the successful transfer of ownership of Stephenville International Airport to Dymond Group of Companies. Owner, Carl Dymond, is delighted to report the finalization of the deal which marks the beginning of a transformative journey for the region.” After almost 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, Dymond has been longing to get home to the province. “I know what it feels like to be away from home and the joy of getting back to family and community. We hope this venture is a way home for the many families who had to leave the Bay St George (BSG) area. We’re hosting an open event at the airport in the coming weeks to discuss shared success over a cup of tea.” On Sept. 9, 2021, Carl Dymond, CEO of the Dymond Group of Companies, first announced his intention to purchase the airport from the non-profit Stephenville Airport Corporation (SAC). “I feel great. This is a good thing for everybody,” said Dymond in his first interview since the deal was finalized. “From the official announcement to now has been almost two years. We’ve been working on it since late February, early March, 2021. So I guess after the new year, it’d be close to three years.” Given the significant delays, there was plenty of vocal opposition speculating that the deal wasn’t legitimate, but there were reasons behind the numerous delays. “It was really just the chronic mismanagement of this airport for the last 25 years, and that’s not to put the blame on the current, now soon-to-be former airport board. It was a lingering legacy. Problems from the titles to the bankruptcy to really finding out what was under the hood at the airport, because the current airport board couldn’t have known everything that was there and lingering over the last 25 to almost 30 years,” said Dymond. “So it was a lot of issues that were discovered just in title searches, and in Newfoundland, nothing is digitized. It’s all people in basements going through banker boxes.” Even though the delays were frustrating, it was a valuable learning experience for the Dymond Group. “What we’ve learned will set us up for success in the future. We learned a lot of hard lessons on this airport, but at the same time, we’re a much better company because of it, and this is going to be a much stronger airport because of it,” said Dymond. Some work will begin almost immediately. “The sign is going to be changed this morning, or at least work will be started on the sign. We want people to know that we’re here and we’re here to stay,” said Dymond. “Over the next couple of weeks now, infrastructure will be brought in to be put up, like hangars that we set at the airport to attract the airlines in. We’re going to have to have a place to house them if they need to stay. The sea spray is very difficult on plane engines, so we want to be able to get a couple of hangars up, and that’s when I require hiring locals to put those up for us.” The deal itself was actually finalized before the weekend, but wasn’t announced until this morning via a corporate press release. “We actually finished it off on Friday (Aug. 25) afternoon, late Friday afternoon. I think we had 22 minutes in the business day left to spare when it finally was completed, so it was all hands on deck, lawyers from both sides. It’s commendable how hard they worked to finish this off,” said Dymond. “On Friday, it was just incredible, and from the airport side, Lew Short has put in no lack of effort to get this finished. It’s incredible, the work he’s done with the airport board on that side to get this over to finish line on Friday.” Dymond offered praise to the current airport board for their work to try to get this deal finalized. “There’s always obstacles when dealing with a group of volunteers, but Willie McNeil and his board there were phenomenal to deal with in every respect,” said Dymond. Lew Short, who worked for Winnipeg Airport Services Corp. (WASCO), has yet to accept the contract offered by Dymond Group. “The Winnipeg Airport Services, WASCO, they finished their contract about a year ago, so Lew is actually employed directly by the airport since the contract finished with WASCO. That wasn’t our choice. That was something the airport finished off,” said Dymond. “We know WASCO very well and they are an incredibly professional organization when it comes to airport management. They made a great choice in Lew. I think it’s just at the time with the airport board’s finances, it was too expensive for them to continue on that contract. We have offered Mr. Short a contract he has yet to accept, but we’d be a much better company with Lew Short at the helm of this airport. I can guarantee you that.” Now that the deal is done, an event is being planned to celebrate. “Our focus wants to be on the community, the people that have supported us from day one, and we know it’s been a long go. I could only imagine for the people not in the know how long it’s been. So we want to have something really community-focused that’s going to make an impact in their lives,” said Dymond. “This airport is for them and we want to make sure that the event that we have that we have planned is going to be very impactful to let them know that we’re here and we’re here to do good. We’re certainly a business that is for profit, but it’s going to be for profit with purpose.” The plan is also to get regular flights coming into the airport. “We were talking to the airlines, and now that we own it officially, we can negotiate with those airlines. Before, it was so up in the air that a lot of them would not commit to us unless we had the deed in hand,” said Dymond. “Now that we do now, we’re going to be pushing really hard for these airlines.” Dymond does plan to return to the area soon. “I think I’ll be there hopefully next week or the week after. It’s the last week of holidays before the kids go back to school, so I kind of want to spend some time with my family this week just because it’s been a busy summer where I haven’t been around much, so I want to spend some time with the girls before they go back to school and then focus on everything,” said Dymond. “The airport will still run while I’m being Dad, but these girls have sacrificed a lot for me to be able to get this airport, so they deserve their last week of holidays.” Dymond is extremely appreciative for the community support. “I just want to thank everybody in the Bay St. George region for their support. It has been a long journey, but what we want to do with this airport is we want to keep the kids from leaving and going to Fort McMurray to work. We want to open opportunities. We want to have a generational shift in mentality that this province and western Newfoundland,” said Dymond. “Bay St. George especially will just be abound with opportunities moving forward. I would love the kids that are in grade 10, 11 and 12 now to stay here and get educated and work here, and then the kids that are going into kindergarten will only grow up knowing opportunity. That’s what we want.” Mayor Tom Rose is equally as excited that the deal has reached its final conclusion. “It’s been a lot of work for council, it’s been a ton of work, I’m sure, for the Dymond Group, but also for the Airport Corporation who took on this deal with Carl Dymond and his group of companies and his investors, and they put a lot of work into it and they did their due diligence. They had legal teams on both sides working out the terms of the agreement, and it took time. Actually, I look at it as a little less than two years because it was September two years ago that Carl Dymond made the big announcement in Stephenville,” said Rose. “I’m just very proud of Carl and his team. They have a vision. They have plans. They have capital they’ve invested in. You know, they had to spend a couple million dollars on this, from legal fees to paying off creditors that weren’t cleared during the bankruptcy, paying off the line of credit that the provincial government and all the citizens were on the hook for, that was a million dollars. I’m really happy for the employees too, because we struggled to keep that airport open. Every time I’d table a motion from a request of SAC, I never knew if it was going to be approved at a council table, it took five votes and sometimes it was tough to get them, but the employees got a future. Now the airport’s got a future, and with everything else that is coming, with this big energy development, the timing has never been better and the future hasn’t looked so bright.” Now that the airport deal is done, money will no longer come from the town and taxpayers. “We’ve been putting, in some words, upwards of $300,000 to $400,000 a year, plus we were getting no tax revenue. So Carl Dymond now will pay taxes to the town of Stephenville. We don’t have to give any money to help with the operational costs, so we’re off the hook,” said Rose. “And actually, in part of the terms, we even received a couple of cheques. Carl had to pay off the water and sewer rates that were on the books and he actually had to pay off the residual that was left on one of the hangars that the town owned, and so we got cheques already from Carl Dymond and I wish him 100 per cent success and we’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with him, just like any company in this town who wants to move Stephenville forward.” Despite having complete faith in the deal, there were times where Rose admits he felt frustration with the delays. “Not that I’m a seasoned veteran of politics, but I’ve got about twelve years under my belt now and I understand business and I work with provincial government, and it was frustrating. Working to get those files moving was a lot of work on my part and council’s part,” said Rose. “People were against us and weren’t happy with our decision and our support of the transfer, but they’re entitled to their opinion. But our decision matrix always comes down to what’s in the best interest of the citizens of this town, and two years ago, the airport was looking at giving notice to lay off employees, shut down the airport, and where would we be today if that would have happened?” There has been a steady amount of opposition to the deal. “It doesn’t weigh on me a whole lot, but it was always frustrating when people say things like Carl Dymond has got no money. Well, he just put in $2 million to cleaning up the airport deal, and I’m sure if he’s got $2 million, he’s got more to spend on the upgrades that needs to happen, plus all of his development plans with his investors,” said Rose. “It was frustrating to hear that from people who were opposed to it, but you know what? They’re wrong and we’re right.” Now that the transfer has been made, Rose is just as eager as anyone to see what comes next. “It’s just going to be nice to see the airfield lighting start to get completed. That was part of the terms that he’s working on, some line painting to get some upgrades done at the airport, and I’m looking forward to breaking ground and starting building, whether it’s a hangar or terminal, and even just to bring new equipment in,” said Rose. “I think they have allocated that it’s going to take about $5 million initially just to buy equipment and finish the lighting, and even seeing that in this first year is going to be momentous for me because it’s capital injection and it’s a new future for the airport.”

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