It’s an easy task to introduce a town that has a history as illustrious and a future so bright as the Town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador.
On what is affectionately known as The Rock, Gander sits on the north east coast of the mighty North Atlantic in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Its origins started as one of the most significant aviation locations in the world in the early days of flight. Thanks to its location on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and, as such, one of the last landing spots between North America and Europe, the Gander International Airport was the ideal refuelling stop for aircraft in the days before large jet engines could fly such distances on one tank.
In the early days of commercial aviation, everyone from Fidel Castro to the Beatles landed in Gander. Referred to as the Crossroads of the World, such milestone flights as the world’s first transatlantic flight began and many of Amelia Earhart voyages all began in Gander.
As the mid-century aviation heyday settled down, the Gander airport grew quieter, but was once again propelled to the global stage during the aftermath of the 911 attacks, when 38 airplanes carrying over 6,500 people found themselves unexpectedly landing in Gander. The reception these travellers received in the central Newfoundland communities near the airport has become a story told near and far, and has been celebrated and retold for audiences for years in the musical Come from Away.
Over the years, the airport became part of a larger aviation and aerospace sector. The College of the North Atlantic has a campus in Gander, as well as a flight training school here that attract students from all over the world. A vital community has continued to thrive around—and beyond—the aviation industry in Gander.
Today, Gander is a vital transportation, service, and retail hub for Central-East Newfoundland and, thanks to a prescient Town Council, is a town well prepared for this role to continue long into the future. Bucking the provincial trend of a declining population, Gander’s population has grown by 23 per cent over the last four census tallies.
Growth in Gander
“We started out as a bunch of people building an airport but we evolved into a fairly major service center for a large portion of the province,” Mayor of Gander, Percy Farwell, tells Business Elite Canada. “And as a major service center service hub for a large population in the central part of the province, Gander has made some great strides infrastructure and services and it’s been rewarded by the retail sector gravitating to the town.”
The Town Council works diligently to maintain quality infrastructure throughout the community quality services. “We want to be a safe community, diverse, inclusive, and progressive,” says Farwell, “all those things that we take a lot of that pride in. We also take great care to be conscious of the importance of sustainability as a community both economically, environmentally, and socially.”
With every opportunity it’s important to measure out the associated challenges, and with population growth comes increased demands on housing, something Town Council is focused on.
“We’re excited about Gander’s growth but if you’re trying to be proactive and stay ahead of things, then you have to start planning and moving,” says Farwell. “I’m thinking about how as a community you can take advantage of those things.”
More residents mean more children, which means the need for more schools. Youngsters in Gander can now boast they attend one of the newest schools in the province. Gander Academy was recently completed, and offers nearly 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art primary school where their children can build a foundation for a prosperous future.
The $22-million project includes 25 classrooms, special education facilities, a gymnasium, a stage, a learning resource centre, two music rooms, a multi-purpose lunch room and a commercial kitchen, among other spaces.
“The new Gander Elementary School is a tremendous facility that the entire school community can be proud of,” the Honourable John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services and MHA for Gander, says. “School enrollment has been steadily growing and the addition of this new school will address capacity concerns for many parents and families in the Town of Gander. It is wonderful to see everyone enjoying the new school and I was proud to be a part of today’s celebration.”
This is one of many construction projects in Gander. Gander Residents now benefit from a new major sport multiplex. The project, which was announced in 2020, will include a FIFA regulation-sized outdoor soccer field, and an eight lane 400-metre rubberized running track.
This sports facility will be an important hub for the community, providing residents with an inclusive place to gather and connect, and will promote active and healthy lifestyles for decades to come, while creating immediate and long-term jobs and promote economic growth.
“Council is excited to have the financial support of government to proceed with phase one of an initiative that will serve recreational, community health, social, and economic needs in Gander and throughout the surrounding region,” says Farwell.
“We’re now working towards becoming a center of excellence for recreational to support both local active-living activities and affordable recreational activities,” says Farwell, “and also to support our role as a tournament-hosting site.”
By ensuring that water and wastewater systems are modern and efficient, the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador are safeguarding the well-being of residents, protecting the province’s waterways and preserving its ecosystems.
In 2017, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced over $22 million in joint funding for a new sewage treatment plant in the Town of Gander. The new wastewater treatment plant serves to meet Gander’s current wastewater needs while allowing for the continued future growth and expansion of community by greatly increased the performance and capacity of Gander’s wastewater treatment system. The new wastewater treatment plant and over 2.5 km of new piping to transport wastewater from the Magee sewage treatment plant ensured that the municipality can meet federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations.
This important investment in Gander will protect the local environment, provide reliable wastewater services for local residents, and support population growth and business development in the area.
“We’ve been an aviation town through our history, we are also a service center and, over the next number of years, we expect that we will also be a mining town,” says Farwell. “It is exciting and we know that it’s going to affect the community in a very positive way.”