NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Beale's Economic Impact

Dave Moller, writes an interesting article in The Union, Beale grounded? - Closing of military base could cripple area economy, January 31, 2005
The specter of closing Beale Air Force Base is very real to those near it, and they are striving to save the $500 million economic engine that fuels eight Northern California counties.
No kidding!

I pulled my Other Voices about Beale’s economic impact today after 18 days in the Union's cue. They had space to print what other people were saying in out of town newspapers, but not enough space to print what locals were saying about local issues. Go figure. My edited thoughts from the withdrawn Other Voices: No Regional Plan B, or Local Plan A

The future can be uncertain, but an unplanned future can be down right scary. With Beale AFB on the tentative base closure list, the Governor has developed a plan to keep all California bases off the list. A tough job, as the Department of Defense plans to close one quarter of all current military installations. California has 7 bases or installations on the tentative list: 4 Marine, 1 Navy, 1 Army, and 2 Air Force. Beale is the only air base, the other Air Force installation is the Los Angeles Air Force Station.

Tim Johnson, Executive Director of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation is a regional leaders working to save Beale AFB. His organization has committed $60,000 dollars to keep Beale off the closure list. This is their plan A, and it is their only plan. “We do not have a plan B,” said Johnson in the January 2005 Comstock’s Business.

Beale’s total annual economic impact on the region is $1.2 Billion. The specific impact on the local economy has not been calculated, but Nevada County is home to a large number of retired military personnel who use base facilities. The County is a strong tourism and recreation destination for base personnel, according to the Recreation Office. Also, local contractors support building projects on the base. It is clear our local economy will suffer if the base closes.

I find it interesting that Yuba-Sutter EDC has committed $60,000 to keep the base off the list. This is represents almost half of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council’s annual budget.

If the Air Force closes the base with all that open space, the roads, sewers and water plant becomes available for development. Beale City! In comparison, Yuba Highlands will only be a small suburb of Beale City. Are you comfortable not having a Plan B?

Wait! We do not even have a Plan A for our own economy, let alone a Plan B should Beale close. The Nevada County ERC is concerned that the community needs an economic vision. They are asking , what does the community want our economic components to be? Do we want a recreation and destination economy? A retirement community economy? A commuter bedroom community economy? A high tech manufacturing economy? Or, a balanced economy with strong components of each? It is a choice the community can make in defining the economy it wants to build and nurture. But, we need a vision with a plan to make it real.

The ERC Board approved a draft economic vision and a list of goals in December. Now they are looking for community input. What kind of community do you want to have? So far most economic visioning has been a list the things community leaders, and citizen groups, do not want in our community: traffic congestion, strong growth, big box stores, dense low cost housing. Where is the positive vision? Where is the vision we can build. Where is the plan of action?

With a positive vision, and a plan, we can effectively craft a workable strategy should Beale AFB be closed. Our own plan B. But, first we need our own Plan A.

Will it take the loss of Beale AFB to galvanize our community to action? Will it take a declining economy, papered over store fronts, closed restaurants, before the community starts developing a vision for an economy worth building? I hope we are smart enough not to wait. Let’s plan our economic future now, and not wait for it to overwhelm us with some nasty surprises, like a large development with 100,000 new neighbors, malls and superstores, only 30 minutes away on what used to be Beale AFB.

You can start by logging on to the ERC’s web log at http://ercvision.blogspot.com. Once you have reviewed the ERC’s vision and goals, please add your comments. Or, call the ERC (274-8455) and ask for a FAX or mail copy. It’s your future.
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