Editorial: Pilot training contract to benefit whole state
Washington, D.C., gave Arizona a great gift this week when the Department of Defense announced that it had chosen Luke Air Force Base in Glendale for the new pilot training center for the F-35 fighter jets.
Now, Glendale is in the "state of Maricopa," as we in the rural areas like to jest - or perhaps legitimately complain - about the Valley of the Sun and its metropolitan mindset.
However, we can look upon this as an economic boost that will benefit all of Arizona, even if indirectly.
In response to the Defense Department's announcement, Gov. Jan Brewer responded, "This is a proud day for Arizona." The state "will continue to play a leading role in our nation's security and defense," along with assuring the long-term viability of Luke. Brewer said the base generates more than $2 billion in statewide economic impact annually.
In recent history, Luke has come under the gun as a military base that could get the axe in Defense Department cuts. Apparently that is not on the radar anymore and this new pilot training center ensures its future through 2023, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both R-Ariz., said in a joint statement after the announcement became public.
Luke Air Force bases dates back to the early 1940s. It bears the name of Frank Luke Jr. who was born in Phoenix in 1897. He was the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor after scoring 18 aerial victories during World War I over the skies of France. He earned the nickname, "Arizona Balloon Buster" for his feats. He was killed on Sept. 29, 1918, when he was just 21 years old.
Besides the storied history of Luke and its namesake, this installation has always been a vital economic force, but maybe only Phoenix and the West Valley appreciate that.
Luke is just one face in Arizona's contributions to the nation's defense industry.
Using only Luke Air Force Base as an example of economic benefit from this industry, this particular mission could bring as much as $125 million in federal money for construction-related projects, an estimated 1,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs and $17 million annually in local, state and federal tax revenues.
Not only is this a feather in Arizona's cap, but it's also revenue that will trickle around the state in some form.
In Prescott's case, although there is no measurable way of knowing, the new Luke pilot training center could mean more visitors to town as one way our rural community would benefit.
Think of this as a positive rather than the Valley's hogging an economic shot in the arm.