In Oliver, Transwest Helicopters has been providing quality workmanship and cost-effective solutions for more than 50 years. In addition to running a Transport Canada-approved helicopter MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facility, their Bell 412 EP helicopter supports the BC Wildfire Services during the summer and takes on a variety of commercial work throughout the year.
We caught up with Transwest’s co-owner Alison Maas to learn more about her experience building an aviation business in Oliver, how she’s leveraging digital tech, and what advice she’d share with entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the area.
What makes Oliver the right place for Transwest Helicopters?
Setting up Transwest in Oliver was the perfect spot because of the incredible weather, convenient location and the small-town vibe. My husband—who is a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot—had travelled throughout the country and felt BC’s South Okanagan region was the best place to live in Canada. The close proximity to the US border and the Penticton or Kelowna Airport also allows us to easily connect to Vancouver and Calgary. While the Oliver Airport is small, it has the facilities we need and their knowledgeable aviation community continues to provide us with so much support.
How are you leveraging digital marketing for Transwest??
I was able to receive some guidance from Accelerate Okanagan’s Advisor Access program on how to improve our approach to digital marketing. I also was able to learn about a full range of helpful governmental resources that I wasn’t aware of. When we were approved for Prospera’s Level Up Local Grant, we started preparing a Social Media Business Plan so we could fully utilize that financial support. With the potentially worldwide reach of our MRO market, we want to create a promotional calendar of social content that coincides with industry events and product developments to help us expand Transwest’s reach across Canada and even internationally.
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What is Transwest focusing on now?
Our MRO facility specializes in legacy Bell Medium helicopter maintenance and overhaul. We’ve developed certified modifications that improve the operation and comfort of these helicopters. Given the high cost of purchasing new aircraft, there is always demand for improving the efficiency and work-life of older machines. If we can increase the business we’re bringing in, we can extend the life of more helicopters and expand our own fleet.
What advice would you share with someone opening a similar business in Oliver?
- Before getting too far ahead, develop a partnership with Oliver’s Airport Manager and discuss your business plan with them.
- Currently, the Okanagan is seeing a lack of housing availability, causing accommodations and the cost of living to increase.
- Because Oliver is fairly rural, be sure to anticipate some additional time for the delivery of supply or service calls from major commercial centres.
What makes you excited about Oliver’s future?
Oliver is continuing to grow and more people locally and nationally are noticing the companies we have here. Additionally, more and more businesses are linking directly or indirectly to the Area 27 racetrack as well as the network of local wineries—all of that activity is boosting Oliver’s community and further supporting local businesses like ours own.