One year from now, the top regional story of 2006 could well be a repeat of 2005: BRAC. We hope it will be No. 1 again, but for a different reason.
Instead of ’05’s uncertainty over the future of Cannon Air Force Base, we want the 2006 reason to be a certain future — as in the Air Force has found a new mission or missions for the base.
That hope is based not on whims. It comes from comments made during recent visits to Clovis and Cannon by key New Mexico congressional and U.S. Air Force leaders who are involved in discussions about the base’s future mission options. It is bolstered by this week’s base visit by a Department of Defense under secretary.
Whatever happens with Cannon, though, no one in the Clovis-Portales Microplex should put on blinders and stop thinking about future economic growth opportunities.
The Base Closure and Realignment process drove home the critical need to diversify our local economy as much and as soon as possible. We don’t want to have a third of the region’s economic base tied to base jobs, as is the case today. A healthier percentage of Cannon’s impact would be more like 10 percent to 15 percent of the local economy, or about half what it is today.
To do that, it is vital that our civic and governmental leaders forge plans together that will lead to expanding work opportunities off base, either in other industries, retail development, or whatever else makes sense. This year has brought many of those people and entities together repeatedly, which has led to better communication and understanding of our many similar and related challenges.
Those discussions should lead to better and quicker solutions in the long run.
When that happens, then the No. 2 story for the region in 2006 could well be success in growing our economic base.
That would mean all those “Happy New Year” chants you’ve heard the last week were not mere wishes. They were foreshadows of how good 2006 can be.