Cannon redevelopment committee being explored

Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

Should Cannon Air Force Base close, its F-16s bequeathed to far away places, Mayor David Lansford wants to be prepared.

That’s why the mayor invited the government entities of the Clovis-Portales area together for a Wednesday morning, closed-door meeting.

The guest speaker is Eric Williams, the executive director of Reese Technology Center, a sprawling campus of 11 businesses, the city of Lubbock’s response to the 1997 closure of Reese Air Force Base.

Integral to the center’s birth was the Lubbock Reese
Redevelopment Committee. According to its Web site, the committee, renamed the Redevelopment Authority, was created just two weeks after Reese was recommended for closure by the Department of Defense to prepare for a Reese closure.

In a May interview, Williams said because Lubbock started planning early, businesses were able to move into Reese only a year after the base packed up and moved. To avoid being bogged down in red tape, Williams suggested then that Clovis-Portales leaders develop a similar committee.

Lansford said that, to his knowledge, no private entity has expressed interest in setting up shop at Cannon. But the governments of the Clovis-Portales area will follow in LRRA’s footsteps, forming a similar committee, should Cannon shutter, said Curry County Manager Dick Smith, who planned on attending Wednesday morning’s meeting.

However, Lansford emphatically expressed the meeting will not seal a Plan B for a Cannon closure. “No one,” he said, “knows what will happen if Cannon remains on the list for closure.” This meeting, he said, rather than prepare for a fate not yet sealed, will strengthen the tools of Clovis, Portales, Roosevelt County and Curry County leaders.

“It will open dialogue with all the governmental jurisdictions in the area so that we can better understand the redevelopment process as well as implications should Cannon expand,” said Lansford, who dubbed the get-together “planning for Plan B.”

Either scenario, Cannon closure or Cannon expansion, said Lansford, will usher in serious concerns for the Clovis-Portales area.

If Cannon remains open, Lansford’s number one scenario, the base, he said will most probably expand, much like El Paso’s Fort Bliss.

“If Cannon remains open, it will absorb more missions. What that means for our community is more growth and as a community we need to prepare ourselves for what the impact of that growth may mean. Basically, we want to understand what they’ve (LRRA) been through so that we can learn from their experience,” the Clovis mayor said. “Hopefully we won’t have to repeat their experience, but we can educate ourselves at very little expense.”

City manager Joe Thomas, also invited to the meeting, said that he is looking forward to learning more about pitfalls the LRRA experienced after Reese officially closed.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee said she and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega plan to be at the meeting. Lee said she is also looking forward to finding out more about grants, aid and the redevelopment process. She said it’s important to prepare for any scenario.

“We need to know what can be expected if the base closes,” Lee said. “It will be the first of several meetings. We will go and decide if city council members need to attend and participate in the meetings.”

— PNT staff writer Tony Parra contributed to this report.