In late 2020 Salt Lake City opened its new airport – one of the most environmentally friendly in the U.S.
It was an ambitious plan. The old airport was torn down and, at the same time, Salt Lake City built a new and much larger airport on the same site. The entire project had to be delivered without disrupting flight operations and passenger journeys. We played a key role in the construction work, with our engineers installing no fewer than 126 elevators, escalators, and moving walks.
"The project was challenging and demanded a great deal of flexibility from us all," says Project Manager Michael Barr. "It was unbelievable how much I learned."
When Salt Lake City officially opened the USD 4.1 billion airport in September 2020, its future was uncertain. The COVID-19 pandemic brought flight operations to a virtual standstill. On some days, there were as few as 1,200 passenger departures.
"It sometimes felt like a ghost town. The last time there were so few air travelers in the USA was probably back in the 1940s," says Martin Criswell, Aviation Services Manager at the airport. Before the pandemic, up to 75,000 passengers arrived or departed from the airport each day. Built as a hub between America’s East and West coasts in the 1960s, the airport – the second largest in the Rocky Mountains after Denver – had long since reached maximum capacity.
Construction work began in 2016 and it will be fully completed in 2024. The new airport is the first in the U.S since 2000 to be awarded LEED Gold certification by the US Green Building Council for its energy-efficient and environmentally friendly construction and operations. A total of 95% of the building waste was reused instead of being burnt or sent to landfill. With its state-of-the-art, energy-efficient installations, we’re also helping to make the airport greener.
"Although the situation was difficult during the pandemic, the low volume of air traffic allowed the construction work to rapidly progress," says Seth Bergman, General Manager Service.
Moreover, the "can-do" attitude of our team and the airport operator also made the work easier. "We consider Schindler to be an ideal partner," says Aviation Services Manager Martin Criswell. "We were on the same page right from the start. We jokingly call Schindler employees ‘The Joneses.’ This is how we refer to good neighbors here in the US."
In the words of Jered Jones, Foreman of the Maintenance Crews, a high level of accuracy was needed to execute the project. "This project called for great precision – just like a Swiss watch. Many of us have been working together at Schindler for 25 years, which is unusual in the elevator industry."
The new airport is a prestigious project for Salt Lake City as well as for us. It is the gateway to a U.S. state that is undergoing an astonishing transformation. Utah is developing into a popular leisure destination and a center of technology.
The 2002 Winter Olympics marked the start of this transition. The economic boom in the city also attracted the interest of high-tech firms. Several leading players from Silicon Valley have opened branches around Provo – a popular college town 45-minutes' drive south of the airport.
Provo’s attractive conditions, in terms of taxes, as well as a good education system and cooler weather, have drawn people away from California – and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains for skiing has earned it the nickname the Silicon Slopes.
The most recent census shows how dynamic Utah is. Its population has an average age of 30.4 years – making it the youngest city in the USA. In surveys, it also regularly ranks as one of the five most attractive locations in which to establish a company. "We’re in a really good position," says General Manager Service Seth Bergman. "People apply for jobs every day. Even though the labor market is saturated, we don’t have any difficulty in hiring top talent."
These are fast-moving times, but we’ve succeeded in retaining our employees over the long term. Jered Jones has been with the company for 25 years; Taylor Sanford has also worked in the industry for 25 years and has spent the last six with our team. And Seth Bergman has been in the same industry for 25 years.
That said, Tony Hall holds the record: he began working as an installation engineer 40 years ago – first for Westinghouse, which was acquired by Schindler in 1989. He has seen all areas of the business. In the early days, the work logs were sent by post to the regional office in San Francisco at the end of every week. A little later, they were sent by fax using a machine in a nearby office supplies store. Hall has received other offers of work during his career but turned them all down. "Schindler always attracted good people and I was able to learn a lot from my managers and more senior employees. It’s now my turn to give something back."