Niagara: fight to keep air base open

April 12, 2013 Updated Apr 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM EDT

By Business First


Niagara: fight to keep air base open

April 12, 2013 Updated Apr 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM EDT

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (Business First) - Niagara County officials are already preparing for a budgetary battle regarding the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

On the same day that President Barack Obama released his federal spending plan, one that again calls for closing military bases, Niagara officials announced they have retained a consultant to make that sure that the Falls site, which employs some 3,000 workers, is not targeted.

The Principi Group, headed by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who also chaired the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission, is being hired by the county as part of an effort. The effort is being funded largely through a $300,000 military base retention grant awarded earlier this year by New York state.

"This is a very serious effort on our part to protect our base and our local workers," said Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, whose district includes a significant portion of the base. "When we lose missions at our base, when we lose aircraft, we also lose jobs - jobs that result in an estimated $200 million local economic impact. By bringing in top consultants, we are hoping to protect as many of those jobs as possible."

The Office of Management and Budget said the first of the new BRAC movements would not start until 2016.

Just last August, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta toured the Niagara Falls base and said he was committed to keeping the facility operational.

"We are committed to maintaining this base for the future," Panetta said. "We're counting on this base. It's important geographically. It's important to our mission going forward."

The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is the largest employer in the county.