October 08 www. bus- ex. com 151 Toronto Pearson International Airport " That dominated the whole scheme from the day the corporation started on 2nd December 1996, until January 2007," says McCoomb. " That was when we opened the international part of the new terminal building." That must have been a wonderful moment. " We could fi nally look at an airport we could be proud of," he agrees, " that was an appropriate and welcoming front door to people visiting Toronto." Organizing a ten year construction program, while keeping the airport operational at the same time, was all consuming, says McCoomb. " It did end, eventually, and it has opened up a wonderful opportunity for the airport to revisit its strategic direction and to adopt a new approach." The single word that sums up the last decade, he says, is ' build'. The word he chooses to capture the future state, is ' competitive'. " We want to be competitive in the sense of being an enabler for the economy of Southern Ontario, and we also want to be competitive in our own right, in terms of being the airport of choice for the gateway to North America. " We have at least a fi ve year window now where we can focus on things other than just building," he continues. " And when we pick up the hammer again, the heavy lifting is already done, the reinvention of the airport is done. We'll be adding piers to a terminal building that's already there. It's nothing like the challenge we faced before, where we virtually had to redo the entire place from scratch." Airports now have to be agile and fl exible, says McCoomb. " The air industry has gone through an amazing transformation," he says. " It's become a commodity. It's incumbent upon airports to recognize that that's happening and to move with the times. Carriers are seeking to enhance their product differentiation and the airport has to play a more signifi cant role in that differentiation. There are many trends out there in the industry and we want to ensure that we are in step with where our customers and our partners want to go." The last few years have turned airports into the most dynamic of environments. Construction of the new facilities began in 1997, so the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 came right in the middle of the program, when plans were well under way. " We suddenly got an order from the government to install 100 percent baggage screening on domestic operations," says McCoomb. " We anticipated it was coming for international, but we had to make signifi cant changes to introduce it for domestic." If it had been a fi xed price contract with one contractor, he points out, it would have been very awkward, " but by managing it ourselves we could absorb the shock more easily." Having improved its infrastructure to the extent that it can now serve the needs of the modern air passenger, Toronto Pearson can turn its attention to satisfying its customers in more sophisticated ways. Innovation and continuous improvement are now on the agenda, but can this be done as effectively in a service industry, as it has been in manufacturing, for instance? " I don't see why not," says McCoomb. " There's always room for improvement; you have to strive for that and I think it's a must. " We have reduced our runway snow clearing time from 90 minutes under government ownership back in the ' 80s, down to 11 minutes," he says. " One of the great things about not having to be totally preoccupied with building is being able to focus on how to be more effi cient." Customer service is another cornerstone of the business, along with environmental stewardship, and safety and security. As in any other business, the greatest opportunities for reducing waste are where the most dollars are spent, and there are plenty of places where savings can be made for the benefi t of the customer. " If you look at our cost breakdown, cleaning and airside maintenance are big dollar items," says McCoomb. " Information service is another big one, and baggage handling is big bucks, too." " The air industry has gone through an amazing transformation. It's become a commodity. It's incumbent upon airports to recognize that that's happening and to move with the times"