Argument made for bringing outlying landing field here

Published 2:55 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009

To the Editor:

Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight Counties, are already suffering from the current recession, the closing of Southampton Correctional Center, and set backs in the farming industry, have now been dealt what could be the final hand to the viability of this community, the closing of International Paper. This latest blow will not only affect 1,100 employees but will devastate the business and service sectors within the entire region.

Town, city, county governments, local legislators, as well as statewide elected officials have not been successful in bringing new industry and jobs to this area; as all have promised, each election cycle. There are few remaining options.

I hope that this area of the state that I call home will again consider one remaining and important option, the Outlying Landing Field for the Navy’s air fleet or OLF. This project has so far been vehemently rejected by its residents. An understandable rejection maybe, but due to this new crisis it must be reconsidered.

Now is the time for leaders in our community to step up as we have a unique opportunity to bargain with some leverage with the Federal Government. If the community leaders and legislators came together and put contingencies on locating an OLF to this economically distressed area, much could be gained. Demand a guarantee that 90 percent of all of its workforce be local residents. Demand that local contractors be used for construction, if available. Demand that the government subsidize the real estate taxes of neighboring residents. Demand that “X” million of dollars in infrastructure cost be spent in 2010. There are more demands we can and should make but better for the “experts” to determine them.

And remember if we do not make a deal now for the OLF we still can have it placed in our area the only difference is that the Federal Government will be making the demands.

This is not a landfill or a refuge for criminals, as many federal projects are. This is a patriotic offer to help defend our nation while helping our neighbors and our community. As a current resident of Virginia Beach, I live directly under the flight pattern and just five miles from the entire base, Oceana. I assure you that my quality of life is not adversely affected. The jobs, tax revenue, customer and client base that an OLF could bring to this area must outweigh the inconvenience of an occasional noise problem. In Virginia Beach they call the jet noise “the sound of freedom.”

Those of you who reject OLF please put the well being of your neighbors and our community first.

This is a unique opportunity for this area to gain an economic lifeline. It is imperative that this region adapt to a changing world and cut its deal while still holding a few cards.

Jerry Flowers

Virginia Beach