By John Cooper Sr.
The ramp at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 18 was filled with families, flags and tears. Tears of joy as family members saw loved ones in person for the first time since May. It was a historic day as the last C-130 deployment for the 914th Airlift Wing from the base came to a successful end.
As the C-130 mission winds down and the air base transitions to its new mission of air refueling, the year 2016 is an important milestone. Thanks to the work of our federal, state and local elected officials, the base is on a solid foundation for this new mission and for future growth.
For the Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC), a group of volunteers who for more than 20 years have been working to advance the interests of the base, we take pride in knowing that we have played an important role in this success.
Volunteers with past military experience and our consultants recognized that the C-130 mission was not viable long term for the air base. It was in 2012 when we started working on securing a new mission for the base. Fortunately, due to the support from elected officials and military leaders who have developed a confidence in Niagara, we have been successful and the base will transition to KC-135 tankers.
What is clear is that investments in NIMAC have paid dividends in terms of construction jobs, part-time jobs and family supporting full-time jobs for this community. And we continue to work and look to the future for additional opportunities.
These past few years have been filled with change. In the 20 years since NIMAC’s founding, approximately $200 million has been invested in the base’s future through infrastructure improvements. Imagine the lost economic impact of that alone, along with an $88 million payroll and $168 million annual economic impact that would have followed. NIMAC and this community have much to be proud of in assisting to save and then grow the air base.
None of our achievements over the years would be possible, however, without the continuing support of the local community and financial support from New York State, the City of Niagara Falls, Erie County and other local governments.
With a volunteer board of directors comprised of local business leaders, elected officials, military representatives and concerned citizens, we know that NIMAC has been a good steward of the dollars entrusted to us. The base continues to be the largest employer in Niagara County and we are poised to grow.
I am not aware of any other volunteer organization in our region that has had such a positive economic impact on our community and I want to recognize all those who have played a role in our successes. And there’s more to come.
John Cooper Sr. is chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council.