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“It’s a waiting game.”

CEO Carl Dymond discusses airport sale holdup and new partnerships

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The journey to acquire Stephenville’s airport by Dymond Group of Companies has been long, but CEO Carl Dymond says there’s only one hurdle remaining. – © File photo

WEST COAST — There has been a longer than anticipated delay since Carl Dymond, CEO of Dymond Group of Industries, originally announced plans in September 2021 to purchase the Stephenville Regional Airport and re-brand it as the Stephenville Dymond International Airport. This has prompted questions surrounding the validity of the deal as weeks and months passed without any perceived movement, but on Wednesday, Jan. 4, Dymond said the only hold up is because of the necessary final approval from the courts.

“It’s entirely in the court’s hands right now. What we did is we paid off the bankruptcy at the airport, which was about $133,000. I think we paid that off in July, and then we went through the process of finding all the creditors. The EY (Ernst & Young) did this. They went through and found all of the creditors. Some businesses were dissolved, some persons were deceased, and once they found everybody, they issued all the cheques, so everyone got paid off. If they were owed money from the airport from 2004, they finally got a $40-50,000 cheque based on what they were owed,” said Dymond. “Then it had to go through the superintendent’s office of the bankruptcy court. I’m not sure what the official title of that is, and then from there, the superintendents have to go to meetings, and there were sponsors attached, and two of those sponsors were deceased since this bankruptcy started, so they had to find other sponsors to come in through the superintendent’s office. Then they would have to discuss that. Then the minutes of the meeting get sent back to EY. They do a second meeting, and those minutes get sent back, and then EY sends that package entirely back to the superintendent, who signs it off, and it goes to the court. It is a huge process that we thought would be done in maybe 30-45 days, but that 30-45 days only counts for our side to submit the paperwork. It’s not reciprocated back from the court. When they finally got everything moving it was the last week of November-early December, and they said not to expect it to be signed off before Christmas.”

Other than waiting for the courts to do their part, Dymond promised that everything else is ready to go.

“Our money is in trust for the final closing costs. We have all these plans, A through Z, ready to enact as soon as we start. We talked to Transport Canada, and ACAP (Airport Capital Assistance Program for mobility and accessibility) in particular, who’s helping us with the lighting project on the airport. We pledged to pay for half of that, which we will be, so they were confident when we showed them our proof of funds and stuff, and they know that the bankruptcy is just waiting to be cleared before we pull that final trigger to get the deed and title, conveyance and all of that in hand,” said Dymond. “They started work with the AVNG (Avia NG is an airport consultant, emergency procurement program) on a lighting project to replace all the incandescent bulbs with the LED bulbs, so everything is moving along. We have everything ready on the stove to take out, but the plates aren’t clean.”

The lighting project began in 2022 so they wouldn’t lose the $1.7 million in funding from the government, which is a bit less than the amount the Dymond Group will pay to finish the project, which amounts to about $2.5-3 million. But the construction won’t begin on the terminal until the deed is in hand.

“We had to get that started or we would’ve lost that funding envelope, so we look at these risk mitigation factors in business when we do this kind of stuff. Yes, we are getting the airport. We still haven’t yet, but we aren’t willing to commit $150 million to a terminal right now until we own it,” said Dymond.

“We take on a certain amount of risk when we do this kind of stuff, so we’d rather put $3 million into a lighting project that is needed for the airport than $150 million for a new terminal right away. As soon as we have that deed in hand, that’s when we get down to business, and we are rushing to get things done then. Everyone is at the gate ready to go in and start working, but we’re not doing it until we have the deed in hand.”

The construction on the new airport terminal isn’t the only item delayed while the Dymond Group of Companies waits on the courts. The new fire hall is also being affected.

“We’ve been working with the Town (of Stephenville), and when they’re ready, when the airport deal is finalized, then we’re going to be providing a new fire hall for the Town of Stephenville, and then we will purchase the equipment. Ten million is what we’ve set aside so we can build a new state-of-the-art fire hall. We can hire new firefighters and we can pay for what they need. We won’t be covering the salaries of the firefighters. Moving forward in perpetuity, what we do is we sponsor a half dozen or so firefighters through school, depending.”

The location of the new fire hall, or fire halls if it is decided it would be more beneficial to have two, has not been decided as, with the anticipated population growth Stephenville could be facing, the location needs to be planned out so everyone has access to emergency service.

“We don’t want to build a brand-new fire hall in Area 13, up in the hills, and then there is a snowstorm and no one plows that hill, and all of a sudden the firefighters are watching the town down there, (with) no power and accidents and they can’t access anything, so location is key in how we’re doing this.”

A recent rumour claimed that the airport was purchased for one dollar, but Dymond said it’s not that simple.

“There was a low purchase price for the airport, but that doesn’t take into account the money that we’ve spent on the airport,” said Dymond. “Stephenville Airport Corporation (SAC) is a non-profit, a non-share capital corporation, so they’re not looking to make a profit off it (the sale). If we gave them a million dollars for that airport, where does that million dollars go after?”

Once the green light is given by the bankruptcy court, Dymond Group then has 20 days to meet the closing conditions.

“That means the lawyers talk to the lawyers, the funds are transferred. It’s about $1.7 million that needs to be transferred to them as final closing conditions. That’s for the line of credit that they currently have that the government’s guaranteeing, so we pay off that to relieve the government of any financial burden, and then we pay off employee severance per the collective earning agreement, and we do GST and lots of small peripherals that need to be paid off that are between $1,000 to $15,000 each. There’s about nine or ten closing additions we have to meet.”

Dymond said money is ready to go and plans are already in place so they can hit the ground running.

“We have a lot of material ordered already because of the way we do this with our partners. That’s what we’ve been working on the last while. There’s no shortage of planning going into this, and the longer this bankruptcy is taking, it’s costing us financially every single minute of every day, but we’re getting such good planning in at this stage that everything should work like clockwork as soon as it’s signed off.”

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose has been kept in the loop and stated that the sale’s conclusion is imminent.

“Lawyers on both sides of the equation want to do a deal and fulfill the terms of the agreement, which really hasn’t changed from roughly a year ago. You know, Carl Dymond really wants to buy the airport and has plans, and I wish him all the luck, and I’d really like to see aerospace development in Stephenville. But what happened was the airport went into bankruptcy protection seventeen years ago, and that makes it complicated. And there were four or five creditors that actually didn’t settle. And one company doesn’t exist anymore. So that had to be all settled. They had to pay off creditors, and Carl Dymond advanced the funds, advanced the funding for that. That’s all done. And a certificate of clearance, of the bankruptcy, well the airport has it, Carl Dymond has it, and it’s sent to the courts,” said Rose via phone interview on Friday, Jan. 6.

“The courts, there’s about a 75 day window to release it. So that all really delayed it by about three months. And actually, that 75 day window is due this week. It could be released any day now. And once it’s released, Carl Dymond has a 20-day period to transfer the funds, which is a multi-million dollar transfer, to fulfill the terms and take over ownership of the airport.”

Dymond says that numerous partnerships have been in the works with airlines and other organizations for when the airport is up and running, but those announcements won’t take place until everything is finalized.

“We aren’t going to say who they are yet because people will inundate them with trying to book flights and if they can’t book flights, be angry with those airlines, especially with the animosity that the weather-related issues caused this past Christmas,” said Dymond.

The partnerships regarding drone development remain on schedule.

“I wouldn’t say they are happy with the delay, but it’s given us time to work out a lot of the other paperwork, so we’re ready to go on that partnership, and we’re all signed off on it. We’re just not ready to announce, especially given the vitriolic language we’ve been experiencing. Why would I subject my business partners to that as well?”

Stephenville council has also been feeling some heat for the delay on this deal.

“We’re handling it pretty good. You know, we’ve never wavered that the airport in Stephenville is so important,” said Rose. “It just goes to show that the World Energy deal, Stephenville is the perfect place, and we’ve got the wind. But when you have an international airport, and an international deep seaport connected, adjacent to Europe and the North Eastern Seaboard, like how many places in the world have that? There’s only five or six places in the world. So we haven’t wavered as a council. We’ll continue to support the airport until the transfer happens. There’s no doubt we get challenged every time we have to put out another $50,000 to keep the airport going, but the airport plays a big role. And I know that whatever it takes, this airport will continue to operate. “

One partnership that was recently announced is with St. John’s-based Duxion Motors Inc., which is set to provide 20 e-Jet motors per year for 10 years, starting in 2026, for a total purchase of 200 engines valued at $500 million. It’s a partnership Dymond is excited about.

“What they have is revolutionary in regards to how hydrogen is used in planes. How these things work, the technology isn’t where it needs to be for weight distribution in aircraft. To have those systems right now in an aircraft would add 100 per cent weight on it, so you’d double the size of the aircraft to have hydrogen-powered fuel cells on there, but the technology is getting better every day,” said Dymond. “We see the potential at Duxion. Rick Pilgrim and his crew are just incredible to work with, so we had to find a way to work with them and they’re excited about what we’ve got going on.”

The plans for the vertiports with UK-based startup Urban-Air Port is another example of innovative development planned for the airport.

“They’ve been very patient. What a great group of guys they are, Ricky Sandhu and Tom and Stu over there. They’re innovators too, and that’s why we were so drawn to them when we started,” said Dymond. “We just haven’t transferred our side of it yet because the airport is the catalyst for that, but we’re looking at putting those vertiports around the old Air Canada site. While one vertiport isn’t going to be very good to anyone else, we’ll build a second one in another location so we can do cold weather testing on the air taxis that they also have partners with through Supernal.”

No money has been taken from taxpayers for the purchase of the airport and Dymond said none will be. It is still at the Dymond Group of Companies’ own expense, and while they have availed of some programs for which they have been qualified, they have taken no money from taxpayers, the province, or the federal government.

“I’ve spent all my own business money on this stuff. I want the people to see that and see that our plan was not to come in and use their money to fund my idea. This is my money, my idea, and I think this is going to benefit the people of Bay St. George and Western Newfoundland for multiple generations to come. I’m excited for it.”

While the court is the reason for the current delay, Dymond said the real question isn’t if the airport sale will be finalized; it’s when.

“We know that we’re going to get this airport. Now it’s just a waiting game and the waiting game is expensive, but we know what we’re going to be doing on this airport, what this airport will be worth to us, and that’s the benefit. Now we can help the people of Bay St. George and Western Newfoundland with jobs, long-term careers, and working with World Energy to create these wind turbines and hydrogen. All these things together are going to be very beneficial for the people of Bay St. George, starting with Stephenville, so I don’t mind taking a financial hit right now. I don’t mind taking every bullet. The criticism that we are getting is out of my hands. It’s in the court’s hands, but I know the benefit for the people of Western Newfoundland, what we’re doing here, so I don’t mind. It’s water off a ducks’ back for a lot of this. We do it because it’s for the greater good. People will see.”

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