Is SDR At YQG Needed
Now that Edgar (aka Eddie) and Council are using SDR restructuring as their excuse for everything, the question needs to be asked why the airport operations are in the state they are.
Is the airport operation being examined as part of the SDR exercise and, accordingly, is any consideration being given about how effective YQG's GM, Federica Nazzani, has been to date? It is no knock against her because it seems she is trying.
However, does she have the skills and experience needed for the job? Has she been placed in an impossible position where she was doomed to fail right from the beginning?
If Councillors Marra and Dilkens were slammed by Gord over their actions re Helga's appointment, then they, the Airport Board and Council ought to be slammed if they have not examined how much Ms Nazzani has accomplished to date.
As the Star Editors pointed out 2 years ago and as we saw recently when a Star Reporter was kicked out of an in camera meeting re the airport's future:
- "Instead of working with the proponents to address city concerns or issue a new RFP, council opted to continue operating the airport as a corporation and to create a new executive board with community, business and aviation representatives. While this might be a prudent approach, council needs to ensure the people appointed to this board place an emphasis on transparency, openness and the public's right to know about public money and public entities.
The lack of details presented before councillors voted on the airport's future last week is emblematic of broader problems with this city and its arms-length corporations, which are not accountable to residents in any direct and meaningful way. Councillor Drew Dilkens expressed frustration with the lack of information he had to review before casting his vote on the airport and city residents share in that frustration."
How did Ms Nazzani get her job in the first place by the way? Was she the right person for it then and is she the right person for it now? Was there recruitment for the postion? Did she have an air industry or airport background? Why was she the best choice?
The Star told us that after Serco left:
- "An acting general manger has been put in place -- Federica Nazzani -- who has a local business background in property management and auditing."
No air industry experience there. Gord told us:
- "Federica Nazzani didn't blink an eye when she was asked by Mayor Eddie Francis to step into the breech and try to rescue a fast-sinking Windsor Airport.
This 36-year-old dynamo, a chartered accountant with a track record in business valuation, corporate finance and financial investigation that belies her relative youth."
None there either.
True she is a Holy Names Grad as is Edgar but why would he want an inexperienced person in the industry involved if this is a key part of our future economic salvation? Why did he make the choice he did? If Serco an experienced operator with all of their connections could not make it, how could an inexperienced person make a success out of the airport?
To her credit, Ms Nazzani has admitted
- "her lack of aviation experience: "It's true I don't have that experience."
Here is what she has been doing
- "Nazzani told council she has been aggressively courting passenger airlines, cargo companies and potential investors to increase business at the local airport.
"Opportunities are real, but we do need to pursue them," she said. "These airlines have the option to say no, but every time I've asked for a meeting I've got one. That's a certain success, that they are willing to talk to us."
She suggested the airport might be better off concentrating on securing more freight business and developing its vacant land, possibly for warehousing or logistics use, because competition for passengers becomes so great that profits are slim for airlines."
She has been busy as Gord mentioned almost 2 years ago
- "Nazzani, a fast study and born salesperson, has been on the road repeatedly to pitch the city-formed company she runs...at airline industry conferences as far away as Frankfurt, Stockholm and London."
I heard she was in Asia recently too and she also went to Germany with Edgar to try to get the onion guys from Germany here.
What has she done:
- "The astonishing thing is that nobody has ever gone out and sold, as she is doing, the inherent advantages of this well-placed but grossly underutilized facility. Years and years have been lost to benign neglect. "They salivate when I talk about this," said Nazzani of her discussions with airline executives who were in the dark about YQG."
What has been her success with salivating executives?
How many airlines operate out of here now? How much cargo flies in and out of here since she became GM? Where are the investors to pay for feasibility studies and new facilitities for cargo?
Here is what the Star wrote a year ago:
- "More often than not the tarmac, check-in counters and baggage carrousel at Windsor Airport are empty.
Every month municipal taxpayers spend another $27,000 to keep it running while city officials slowly try to right the listing operation.
That is little comfort for Len Edwards, whose limousine business at the airport has dropped 75 per cent since the city took over a year ago.
"Once the city took over it's been downhill. People there working don't know what they are doing or seem to care less," said the owner of Len's Personal Transportation.
"Nobody is promoting the airport. If you stand still, nothing is going to happen. That's exactly what they are doing."
Some business tenants of the airport property are also nervous about the future. They say their advice is being ignored and the turnaround plan is taking too long to take off."
A key indicator of her success or failure should be what Edgar said almost 18 months ago:
- "The second is business development -- attracting airlines, charters and new routes.
"That business development is happening quicker than expected," Francis said."
Really Edgar? What evidence is there of that taking place? I can think of a few holy names to use as Lufthansa said in their Report on what she wanted to concentrate:
- "YQG is not being recognized as a cargo airport by either forwarders or shippers...
44 interviews were conducted in Windsor, Toronto, Detroit, at a trade convention in Las Vegas and at other locations. The Lufthansa Consulting experts conducted interviews with airlines, shippers, forwarders, and government agencies...
The development of air cargo business at Windsor International Airport is strongly dependent on the development of new air services to and from YQG..."
In fact, mini-Gord told us about Lufthansa who took on the assignment:
- "they hadn't known it existed before being hired to study it, which is disquieting"
Lufthansa told Council when delivering their report that YQG is:
- "Small and practically unknown to the greater airline world."
Even Edgar with a slap to Ms Nazzani's efforts said:
- "Francis said some of the freight forwarders -- those who are hired to handle cargo for customers -- contacted during the study weren't even aware Windsor's airport is open for business."
- "Key to Windsor’s success at grabbing a slice of the action will be what Francis called a “multi-pronged” approach that includes more marketing efforts...
Authors of the Lufthansa study met with freight forwarders and logistics providers who were unaware of what Windsor Airport had to offer, which underscores the need for increased marketing, said Francis.
A lot of people don’t even know Windsor Airport exists,” said Francis.
“But when they’re told about Windsor Airport and where Windsor Airport is and its proximity to Detroit and the advantages here, they determine that there’s value here."
If no one still knows about YQG, how can anyone claim she has been successful in achieving any recognition for the airport even with all of her world-wide jaunts?
However, the latest news coming out of the airport is a disgrace. The lack of action has delayed until probably the 4th quarter the release of the City's annual report, well past the normal release date.
- "Airport records two years late
Audited statements for 2007 and 2008 by the operator of Windsor Airport were not turned over to the city's external auditor KPMG until after the accounting firm raised concerns Thursday during the city's audit committee meeting...
YQG claims of making a profit based on their books is different compared to findings of outside audited statements, said Halberstadt...
"I was pleased to hear the information was made available to KPMG, but why the delay?" said Coun. Bill Marra, another audit committee member.
"The information was not forthcoming and (KPMG) was waiting a lengthy period of time for it. This certainly seems unusual. The bottom line it's been resolved, but the auditors were concerned enough to identify it as an issue."
Airport board member Coun. Drew Dilkens said they have been clueless over YQG audited statements of the last two years being incomplete and withheld."
There is no excuse for this. Ms. Nazzani must take responsibility as GM. We have been told that "she has held positions on the City of Windsor Audit Committee, WFCU Board, finance and tax committee with the Windsor and District Chamber of Commerce and on the Enwin Energy Board." She is no amateur in business.
Remember when I Blogged this about her vision for the airport:
- "Now the Airport… you know the one with one commercial airline that flies out of it on a regular basis on a scheduled service, with a few chartered flights thrown in for fun.
Our Airport General Manager must be sniffing the dream vision too:
“We have to be thinking big right from the start. The way I run those board meetings is we're putting a Fortune 500 company in place.... If we set the right processes and procedures in place, we'll get there."
Thinking Big is terrific. Delivering Little is not.
With an airport that potential customers know little about even now, audited reports not provided in a timely fashion and a Board seemingly out of the loop, will the Mayor as Chair of YQG one day use the Tyagi excuse that he gave that "SDR Restructuring" eliminated Nazzani’s position as GM of the airport?
I feel sorry for her. Ms. Nazzani may have to take the fall notwithstanding her best efforts.
Will it soon be time for a "Change agenda" at YQG.