By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Portales residents expressed relief and joy following Tuesday’s announcement that Cannon Air Force Base will be a new home for U.S. Air Force Special Operations.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said an ecstatic Sharon Davis, co-owner of Calton Furniture in Portales. “This is great news for both communities (Clovis and Portales). We’ve come a long way since that day we were put on the list.”
U.S. Department of Defense officials placed CAFB on the Base Realignment and Closure list on May 13, 2005.
Immediately, local officials and residents began putting together the Operation Keep Cannon campaign and other lobbying efforts to keep the base.
“It would have been an economic blow to our community,” Davis said. “We have really good customers from CAFB. They’re good citizens. I’m thrilled. We’ll have really good citizens coming to our community.”
Davis was one of the organizers of the Operation Keep Cannon campaign that culminated with a parade to welcome BRAC commissioners to Clovis on June 24. Clovis and Portales residents lined the streets leading to Marshall Junior High in Clovis where the BRAC hearing was held.
Operation Keep Cannon members spent time leading up to the hearing putting together events and public awareness campaigns in Portales and Clovis, stressing the importance of CAFB to eastern New Mexico.
Some have estimated 30 percent of the region’s economy is tied directly to the base.
Marshall Stinnett, a member of the state’s Military Base Planning Commission, said the announcement will mean a positive impact to the area beyond economics.
“We’re going to hate losing the F-16 community, but we’ll welcome the Special Ops community with open arms,” he said. “They are not only a boost to the economy, but to the character of our community.”
Stinnett praised the work by Operation Keep Cannon members and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega and Clovis Mayor David Lansford.
Area officials committed more than $300,000 for lobbying purposes to get CAFB off the BRAC closure list or find a new mission. Stinnett said hiring lobbyists and experts to research the impact to eastern New Mexico helped take CAFB off the list. He said the lobbyists were able to show the magnitude of the economic impact to Clovis and Portales was greater than the U.S. Air Force findings.
Ortega attended a press conference Tuesday at Clovis-Carver Library announcing the news to eastern New Mexico residents.
“The mood was very excited and upbeat,” Ortega said. “We’re looking forward to the new mission. Both communities rely on each other’s resources to grow and prosper.”
Ortega said now the communities can move forward after 14 months of uncertainty. Ortega said he was pleased with the way the U.S. Department of Defense handled the situation.
“We (people who worked to keep CAFB) wanted to resolve it as soon as possible,” Ortega said. “It has been our goal since the day the announcement was made that CAFB was on the list.”