FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2011
SCHUMER: OLD BAE FACILITY CAN’T BECOME BLIGHTED DRAG ON BROOME COUNTY ECONOMY – CALLS ON DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TO HELP REDEVELOP SITE FOLLOWING PLANNED DEMOLITION
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Department of Defense to begin immediately planning for the redevelopment of the former BAE facility in Johnson City, now slated for demolition following flood damaged sustained during Tropical Storm Lee. After successfully pushing FEMA to allow Broome County IDA to apply for disaster assistance funding, Schumer successfully pushed the Air Force to assume primary responsibility for the demolition of the facility, which made it cost effective for BAE to stay in the Southern Tier, keeping one of the region’s largest employers from moving out of state.
In order to prevent the former BAE facility from becoming a blighted drag on the local economy, Schumer is calling on DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment to work with Broome County and IDA officials to redevelop the site as soon as it is demolished. With BAE set to relocate in another facility, Schumer seeks to minimize the impact on Johnson City businesses which relied on BAE for a great deal of their revenue.
“Keeping BAE in the Southern Tier is a huge victory, but we have to make sure the old building doesn’t turn into an economic black hole,” said Schumer. “Working hand-in-glove, the Defense Department, Broome County, and the IDA need to craft a plan forward to make sure that the Johnson City site can thrive when BAE finds new space elsewhere in the Southern Tier. We can’t let it fall apart and serve as a drag on our recovery from the flooding. I’m confident that, while we continue to reap the benefits of BAE’s continued presence in the Southern Tier, we can ensure that this site continues to be a positive force in Johnson City.”
Schumer noted that the DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment contains two programs that provide funding for redevelopment planning that could fit the needs of the Johnson City facility. The Community Economic Adjustment Planning Assistance for Reductions in Defense Industry Employment provides this type of planning assistance. Specifically, the program provides funding for States and communities to prepare and carry out community adjustment and economic diversification activities in response to reductions in defense industry employment resulting from: a publicly announced planned major reduction in Department of Defense (DoD) spending; the closure or significantly reduced operations of a defense facility as the result of the merger, acquisition, or consolidation of the defense contractor operating the defense facility; the cancellation or termination of a DoD contract; or the failure to proceed with an approved major weapon system program.
DOD also offers planning grants through the Community Economic Adjustment Assistance for Establishment, Expansion, Realignment, or Closure of a Military Installation. The funds provide assistance for States and communities to: plan and carry out adjustment strategies; engage the private sector in order to plan and undertake community economic development and base redevelopment; and, partner with the Military Departments in response to the proposed or actual expansion, establishment, realignment or closure of a military installation by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Both programs offer planning grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to Defense Secretary Panetta appears below:
Dear Secretary Panetta,
I write to call your attention to a very important matter affecting Broome County, New York, home to Air Force Plant #59 and the former headquarters of a major business unit of the defense contractor BAE Systems. As the county regroups from Tropical Storm Lee, they anticipate significant near-term changes in defense-related land use and employment. As a result of the storm, BAE is working to find a new permanent location, and the Air Force facility is likely to be demolished. Given this major, unexpected turn of events, the county is working hard to ensure a smooth recovery which will enable it to continue serving the defense establishment over the long-term. In particular, I urge you to work with to explore economic development funding to plan for the site’s re-use through the Office of Economic Adjustment, and I ask that you give top priority to consideration of their request.
Large parts of Broome County were devastated in Tropical Storm Lee which swept through the region in early September. Before the storm, some 1,300 employees of BAE Systems were occupying the seventy-year old Air Force facility. Broome County was under contract to acquire the facility from the Air Force, and the sale was pending while the Air Force completed related environmental cleanup. Unfortunately, given the property’s precarious location and the unprecedented flooding, the building was damaged beyond repair. This resulted in BAE seeking new short-term and long-term facilities in the region, and also threw into question the future of the Air Force property. While the county, BAE, and the Air Force have been working cooperatively and creatively to address these problems, there remains a real need and opportunity for participation from your department. With that said, this particular property lies in the heart of Johnson City’s Main Street, and merchants have already felt the loss of BAE’s 1,300 employees. Therefore, we need to provide Broome with an injection of resources to plan for the future of the site, in conjunction with the Air Force, so that the vacant land doesn’t become a blighted drag on the local economy.
These major changes in the county will require studies and planning focusing on infrastructure, transportation, and environmental issues. Economic analysis and land use studies will also be key to determining the best way for the county to plan the future of the Air Force property. Staff from Broome County is detailing their needs for planning assistance and funding to your staff in the Office of Economic Adjustment. I know how valuable this assistance has been to other communities facing closures or realignment of defense facilities, and I know that your team could make a difference here as well.
Please ensure that Broome County's request receives all appropriate review, especially given the magnitude of these unforeseeable changes. As always, I appreciate your consideration and assistance regarding this critical issue for New York and for our nation’s defense establishment.