By Bob Baker: Guest Columnist
What will the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process mean to eastern New Mexico?
We won’t know until federal officials finalize it all late this year.
Of course we’re all hoping Cannon Air Force Base will survive the cuts, maybe even expand as other bases are closed. But is anyone even thinking about the possibility that Cannon could close?
Is anyone planning for a what-if scenario?
The economic impact on this community would be devastating if Cannon were to close. We need to be thinking about our response should it happen.
Here’s what some other communities did after losing Air Force bases following BRAC proceedings:
• Reese AFB in Lubbock. It closed Sept. 30, 1997.
Today the base’s 3,000 acres and buildings are managed by The Lubbock-Reese Redevelopment Authority (LRRA), which is known as Reese Center.
More than 30 percent of the property has been redeveloped with research and technology transfer being the focus of most of it.
The old hospital building is still intact and is strongly being looked at as a possible location for offices housing the United States Department of Agriculture in conjunction with Texas Tech University’s meat-lab research facilities. Today it is a learning and business center used by local universities and high-tech firms that provides 570 jobs and injects roughly $9 million a year into the local economy.
• Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas. It closed in September 1993.
The base property reverted to the city of Austin in October 1993. The Austin City Council renamed the base “Austin-Bergstrom Inter-national Airport” in November 1994.
Very few entities were saved from the old Air Force base. The housing was sold and moved. Most structures were demolished, including the 35-bed Air Force hospital, because they did not fit in with the needs of a new commercial airport.
A $5 million Military Airports Program grant and revenue bonds were used to build the new airport. Its official opening date was May 23, 1999. Texas officials today say the facility is responsible for 35,700 jobs, has a payroll of $790.6 million, and provides the area around Austin with an estimated $1.8 billion in economic impact.
There are many other success stories that came about following the closure of military installations. The key is to find a use for the property that will bring in business, personnel and commerce.
What could we do with Cannon AFB?
It has the best golf course in this area. Most housing units have recently been remodeled and updated.
The flight-line buildings and runways would make for a super airport for Curry County and could bring in aerospace manufacturing if it were opened to the public.
The base has several water wells that do not rely on city supplies and its own wastewater treatment plant, which would be a boon to industrial use.
As an industrial park, it would be a beauty with lots of hangars that would easily convert to warehouses and/or manufacturing facilities.
This list of positives goes on.
But I’m concerned that no one in our community is thinking about the future if Cannon does close.
I sure haven’t heard of any committees being formed. Does anyone know what is involved in obtaining the military real estate for city and county use? What laws are applicable and where do we start?
There is grant money available for development, depending on the intended use. Who knows where to apply and how? What about any environmental cleanup considerations should the base close?
Our community needs to prepare now and minimize the impact if Cannon does close.
Bob Baker is a retired chief master sergeant, Curry County volunteer and vice-chairman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org