UBERT Kleysen of Kleysen Transport was saving a property next to Richardson International Airport, with the plan to make it into the future hub of Winnport, the proposed inland terminal that would link Winnipeg with China.
Winnport failed but Kleysen’s dream has still become a reality, albeit a modified one.
Red River College announced the purchase Monday of the Winnport site from Kleysen for the permanent home of the college’s Stevenson Aviation Campus.
Winnport “worked out, in a way,” Kleysen’s son Tom said, while in attendance at the announcement. His father, who turns 83 this week, was out of town on a family matter.
“It was disappointing that Winnport wasn’t successful but, as we fast-forward 20 years, the legacy of that idea of my father’s is this building is being used in a sustainable way to provide ongoing benefits to students and ultimately to our province,” Tom Kleysen said.
The college has been leasing the hangar since 2002 for its aviation classes. The purchase “at a family discount” will allow the college to continue preparing future employees for the city’s aviation and aerospace industry, said Paul Vogt, president and CEO of Red River College.
“Now that we own it, we can grow it, we can add to it, we can change it,” Vogt said.
One of the areas that is changing in the field of aviation is the switch to composites instead of aluminum. That is “a huge change from the kind of classrooms that we had before,” Vogt said.
The college will save $1 million over the 25-year length of the mortgage. That’s how much less it will pay in mortgage payments as opposed to lease payments. After that, it will be clear savings, Vogt said.
The purchase also gives the college certainty. If Winnport or some variation ever had become a reality, the Red River College aviation campus could have gotten the boot.
That prompted a Winnipeg Jets metaphor from Vogt: “Like them, we’re in it for the long haul and we won’t let temporary setbacks get in the way,” he said, alluding to the team’s playoff drubbing in Minneapolis on Sunday night.
Education Minister Ian Wishart was on hand to back the RRC’s plan to borrow $8 million to buy the property. The college requires government approval to borrow, as set out in the Red River College Act.
The guaranteed location is great for Winnipeg’s aviation and aerospace sector, the third-largest in Canada. “Almost every single one of my mechanical employees came through this facility,” said Kim Westenskow, Boeing Canada general manager.
Boeing employs 1,600 people in Winnipeg. “There’s lots more to come” in terms of jobs, Westenskow maintained.
The Winnipeg plant is in the process of hiring 200 to 250 new employees, she said. That process started last year and will likely continue into next
Hyear as graduates are trained.
The facility on Red River’s Stevenson Aviation Campus is to be named the Hubert Kleysen Hangar.
The Kleysen family also will set up a scholarship fund for students in the Red River program, perhaps in the form of assistance for students who need financial help. “The final details of that are being worked out,” Tom Kleysen said.
Some of Hubert Kleysen’s philanthropy has included support of St. Paul’s High School, the Health Sciences Centre and education.
“My dad has always felt fortunate and blessed in life that he was able to have financial success through his business, and an important part of that has always been giving back to the community,” Tom Kleysen said.
RRC’s Stevenson Aviation Campus offers diploma programs for aircraft maintenance engineers, aerospace manufacturing technicians and gas turbine engine repair. About 400 students per year graduate from the program, which is the feeder system for the city’s aviation and aerospace industry that employs about 5,000 people and contributes $1.9 billion to Manitoba’s economy annually.
Surveys show from 80 to 90 per cent of graduates find employment, with 90 per cent saying they would recommend the programs to others.
Tom Kleysen, son of Hubert, was on hand Monday for the announcement of the sale of the Winnport site. His father was out of town on a family matter.
Red River College president and CEO Paul Vogt says the school now can grow its aviation program.