Valley must come together in fight for existing, new jobs

There are A COUPLE OF initiatives that require the attention of the Mahoning Valley and the state of Ohio — one more urgent than the other, but both economically important.

The first involves the future of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township. The base is under threat from a federal panel charged with restructuring the Air Force.

The second has to do with the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center and the possibility of its being chosen as the site for a ground-base system designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

It is not the first time that the air reserve base adjacent to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport has been on the Defense Department’s radar for a review of its mission. But this time could be different. That’s because the push by some members of Congress to reduce spending has never been greater than it is today.

The Republican caucus on Capitol Hill is being forced to the extreme right by members who owe their allegiance to the tea party. The GOP leadership is succumbing to the pressure.

The result is that federal departments across the board are being forced to re-prioritize spending.

Thus, the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, which pumps $100 million a year into the Valley’s economy, is in danger of being cannibalized by the Pentagon.

Although the federal government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Vienna Township C-130H cargo aircraft training facility and concluded that 12 planes were necessary for the base to adequately perform its mission, there is now a move to reduce the number of aircraft to eight.

In fiscal 2011, the Air Force Reserve directed the Youngstown base to lend two aircraft to Little Rock Air Force base to support its training mission, but the planes remained part of YARS’ inventory for manning purposes.

Now, the feds want to remove those two from Youngstown’s books and also convert another to Backup Aircraft Inventory.

Without a compelling organizational reason, the Pentagon should not be allowed to proceed.

Ohio’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, need the backing of politicians, community leaders and business executives in their quest to not only maintain what the Youngstown base has, but to increase the number of aircraft to 16.

Gubernatorial support

The senators also need the support of Gov. John Kasich, who must be aware that past governors were unstinting in their support of the Mahoning Valley’s economic development efforts.

The Camp Ravenna project is less urgent but just as crucial because it could mean an investment of millions of dollars by the Pentgon and a sizeable number of jobs.

The former arsenal is one of five sites being considered for the interceptor-deployment defense system.

The selection process is just beginning, but it’s not too early for the Valley, along with the state and Ohio’s congressional delegation, to launch a coordinated campaign.

The arsenal is ideally suited for the system being proposed by the defense government. It consists of 21,000 acres between Newton Falls and Ravenna. It has had storied history of participating in the defense of this nation and, like the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, it has received significant economic investment from the federal government. That should be a major consideration as Washington analyzes all the sites.

This is a project that goes beyond partisan politics and provincialism. There should be no hesitation by government, business, labor and community leaders to support the arsenal in the high-stakes sweepstakes.

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