Saturday, February 23, 2019

Week in review (2/17 to 2/23)

A group of Pensacola residents formed a committee that will try to force a city-wide referendum on the agreement to pay $5 million of city sales tax money to fund the $210 million ST Engineering expansion project at the Pensacola International Airport.

Citizens Against Corporate Welfare is invoking provision of the city charter that allows citizens to challenge a vote of the City Council with a city-wide voter referendum if 10 percent of registered city voters agree. The Pensacola City Council voted 4-3 earlier this month to approve an agreement with Escambia County to increase the city's funding for the project from $10 million to $15 million.

The project will expand ST Engineering's aircraft, maintenance and overhaul campus from one to four hangars and bring in 1,325 jobs on top of the 400 promised for the hangar that opened in 2018. Citizens Against Corporate Welfare will have to collect 4,005 verified signatures by mid-April to force a referendum. (Post)

I saw one of the members of the group on television the other day, saying that "bribing foreign-owned companies and providing them corporate welfare to compete with American companies is just unconscionable to me."

Well, thank you for defending large U.S. companies, none of which is proposing establishing an MRO in Pensacola. Surely this gentleman must know the foreign companies he's so concerned about have U.S. operations and hire U.S. workers - just like our companies have operations overseas and hire their workers.

Perhaps he has been out of the loop and doesn't understand that incentives are offered to companies, foreign and domestic, all over the country. Like it or not, right or wrong, the incentives are part of the economic development game.

I can just imagine, if this gentleman had been a resident of Mobile, Ala., what he would have thought about the incentives that were provided to bring an Airbus A320 assembly line to Mobile – or the more recent incentives to bring in a second assembly line to build A220 jetliners.

No doubt he would also have objected to the incentives that lured Mercedes to Alabama, the first in a series of automakers and supply manufactures that eventually made Alabama their home.

So for anyone approached to sign this petition, do so if you want. But I urge you to look at the long game.

By the way, Mississippi in the 1930s was the first state to make it official policy to get the public sector behind efforts to attract industry. The state created the Balancing Agriculture with Industries program, and it was controversial because it was considered socialist. Incentives had been offered on the local level for years, but BAWI gave the activity a state's blessing. It was BAWI that helped lure Ingalls Shipbuilding to Pascagoula, which remains the largest employer in the state. BAWI served as a model for other parts of the South, then over time the rest of the nation.

So there you have it.

A spaceport along the Interstate 10 corridor? Well that's what the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC) hopes to establish at Stennis International Airport (HSA) in Kiln.

It has decided to go ahead and seek a spaceport license. HCPHC commissioned RS&H Inc., which previously did a feasibility study, to complete an application for HSA to obtain a Launch Site Operator License.

The license application will be filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation. If approved, it would enable horizontally launched reusable launch vehicles to operate out of HSA. The FAA has developed regulations that enable airports to host operations of reusable launch vehicles that take off and land like aircraft.

Several kinds of such vehicles are currently under development. The license application will establish regions over the Gulf of Mexico where the launches could be conducted safely and ensure the Airport has the infrastructure required to support those launch operations. (Post)

Money programmed for two construction projects planned for Eglin Air Force Base could be steered to construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall under terms of President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., confirmed that a proposed $34.9 million outlay for an F-35A training center and a proposed $28 million outlay for an F-35A student dormitory are part of the $3.6 billion in military construction funding that Trump could tap for the wall.

In all, Florida bases could lose up to $177 million for planned construction, according to a list compiled by the House Appropriations Committee. (Post)

-- Brig. Gen. David J. Francis, director, Army Aviation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, at the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C., will become the new commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala.

Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, current commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, was nominated as director, J-3 Operations/Cyber, U.S. Africa Command in Germany. (Post)

New Orleans airport passenger traffic hit a new high in 2018. More than 13.1 million travelers flew in and out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport last year, up 9.3 percent from 2017. It marks a fourth consecutive year of passenger growth at the airport.

Meanwhile, a new $1 billion terminal, currently under construction on the north side of the airport property, is set to open May 15. It will have fewer overall gates than the existing terminal, but several gates at the aging facility have been closed for years. (Post)

The February 2019 Gulf Coast Reporters League/Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter is available for download.

It includes a stories about the groundbreaking for the A220 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., and the Navy's official opening of Site X in Jay, Fla.. There's also a summary of key stories that occurred since the last newsletter, including additional funding for Pensacola's maintenance, repair and overhaul project. (Post)

Tapestry Solutions Inc., a Boeing Co., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $259 million contract for Weapon Planning Software (WPS). This contract provides for the development, enhancement, and support of the WPS suite, which is a common component within the Joint Mission Planning System architecture. Work will be performed predominately in St. Louis, Mo.; and Niceville, Fla. Work is expected to be complete by February 2029. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

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