ST. LOUIS – Thursday’s news conference at St. Louis Lambert International Airport had it all: Mayor Tishaura Jones; music; a large crowd; even cake. Excitement was in the air as Air Canada announced new, seasonal service from to Montreal.

“We felt that would be a really nice opportunity and the bookings are proving that,” Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, St. Louis Lambert International Airport director, said.

The airport director said Air Canada’s daily outbound flight to Montreal will depart at 11 a.m. out of Concourse A in Terminal 1 and return each evening just after 9 p.m.

“This is an effort by everyone, including governmental leaders, business leaders, and all the companies doing business in Canada and St. Louis, to say, ‘We’re here as a partnership, let’s grow it, let’s see what else we can do.’” Hamm-Niebruegge said.

“You cannot overemphasize the importance of these international connections for business, for tourism,” World Trade Center St. Louis Executive Director Tim Nowak said.

Nowak believes the Montreal flights and Air Canada’s current daily non-stop from St. Louis to Toronto will strengthen businesses relationships. Canada is the state of Missouri and St. Louis region’s largest trade and investment partner.

“When St. Louis companies are selling to markets like Canada, that’s employing people right here in our own backyard,” he said. “Then you add on to that other foreign investment, Canadian and foreign investment, that’s here in this state and when you put it all together, it does mean jobs and economic growth and that’s what we need here in St. Louis.”

Mayor Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, and a group of local leaders caught the flight to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Thursday as part of a trade mission.

“It’s France without the jetlag,” Jean-François Hould, the Quebec government’s Midwest delegate, said.

“There’s definitely something happening between Quebec and the Show Me State right now. The numbers are showing it; 8.5% growth over the last five years. Almost $2 billion of trade relationships. Things are heading in the right direction. If we can better understand the business ecosystem on both sides, I think on top of the cultural relationship we already have, there’s something that can bloom for sure.”