Gov. Butch Otter issued an editorial Monday morning encouraging Idahoans to show support for the Air Force's F-35 training and operations program that could come to the Treasure Valley. The governor will also participate in a news conference Monday afternoon to launch idahof35.com, the state-funded website backing the F-35 program.
Read IdahoReporter's coverage on the F-35 program or Otter's editorial below.
THE F-35 LIGHTNING II JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER: THE RIGHT PROJECT AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR IDAHO
Most people who don’t live here – especially those from back East – think of Idaho as an out-of-the-way place. We usually are “fly-over country” for national politicians.
But right now, Idaho is front-and-center, standing tall with the United States Air Force. And that’s a very good thing.
Two Idaho military bases are on the short list to be training and operational homes for the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Mountain Home Air Force Base and Boise’s Gowen Field are two of 11 sites nationwide that are competing for these new missions.
The project has been flying under the radar a little, but the fact is that this is one of Idaho’s biggest economic development stories in years. It has moved to the top of priorities for my Project 60 campaign, and for good reason: The potential is there for 3,000 direct, career-level jobs being secured – not to mention the enormous additional economic opportunities resulting from those jobs, and the chance of solidifying the position of both bases as pillars of our economy for another 50 years.
These two bases together contribute more than a billion dollars to our state’s economy each year, so this is a very big deal for all of Idaho. While the bases are in southern Idaho, they have a statewide impact. Each job saved or created at Mountain Home and Gowen has a ripple effect throughout our economy. Jobs off the base are affected as demand for goods and services rises. That in turn affects tax revenue, which directly impacts State services throughout Idaho.
When a small employer hires a few people, we celebrate. Every bit counts in this economy. But when two of the state’s largest employers face a huge potential new mission, it’s my responsibility to make this a top priority. It also is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Idaho National Guard, which are working diligently to coordinate and align support with our Idaho congressional delegation, private businesses, the Legislature, and communities throughout Idaho.
Cities from Nampa to Greenleaf to Mountain Home have lined up in support of this project, as have the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Idaho Cities. The Air Force now is conducting environmental impact surveys and community support is a critical element to this part of the process.
It’s important to note that Mountain Home Air Force Base is not competing against Gowen Field for the F-35s. Each of these bases has made it to the short list for separate missions – Mountain Home is up for operations and Gowen Field is being considered as a training base. One or both bases could be selected.
It also is important to point out that if our bases are not selected, their long-term future could be in jeopardy. While they will remain important to the military for some time to come, our bases eventually could face cutbacks unless we have a role in the Air Force’s new missions.
You can play a role in all of this by voicing your support. A series of open house “scoping” meetings are being held this month throughout southwestern Idaho. Information will be available there and questions will be answered by Air Force representatives in an informal setting. Attendees can fill out comment cards. A schedule of meetings can be found at a new informational Web site we’ve launched, at idahof35.com.
Idaho has a long history in military aviation, and our citizens have a proud history of supporting America’s fighting men and women. This is the perfect location for the Air Force’s new mission, but we need your help to make that case. So now is the perfect time for all of us to stand up and be counted in support of the F-35 coming here to Idaho.