LOCKPORT – Two marketing videos, aimed at convincing Washington decision-makers to expand the role of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, were unveiled earlier this month.
The videos, which dubbed the base “Joint Base Niagara,” recommend storing Air Force drones at Niagara, as well as moving other federal facilities to the site on Lockport Road in the Town of Niagara.
Last year, facilities for remote piloting of drones were installed at Niagara, but the aircraft themselves are deployed from other locations.
The videos, available to the public on YouTube, were prepared by the Principi Group, a Washington lobbying firm hired by Niagara County, and produced locally by Trellis Marketing.
The county and the Niagara Military Affairs Council jointly obtained a $300,000 state grant for air base retention activities, which was used to hire the firm headed by Anthony J. Principi, former secretary of veterans affairs.
He produced a detailed study on potential future missions for the base, as well as a strategic action plan and outreach agenda aimed at building public support.
With nearly 3,000 military, civilian and contract personnel, the air base is by far Niagara County’s largest employer.
In the last 20 years, the air base has survived two sessions of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, that considered shutting it down as part of a budget-cutting process.
“The last several years, the president’s budget has called for a BRAC, but Congress hasn’t passed it,” said John A. Cooper Sr., chairman of the military council, which was founded in 1996, the year after the first BRAC.
“Our stance is, we’re always ready for one,” Cooper added. “We work as if there’s going to be one.”
County Legislature Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, chairman of the Legislature’s Economic Development Committee, said the base has an economic impact exceeding $200 million a year.
The 987-acre base, adjacent to Niagara Falls International Airport, is home to the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard and the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve.
Also, there are Army Reserve and Army National Guard facilities and the Buffalo Military Entrance Processing Station, which handles intake of new recruits for all branches of the armed forces.
“It’s more than just an air base. It’s a joint military base, which is why we’ve developed a marketing campaign around a new community brand promoting the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as ‘Joint Base Niagara,’ ” Updegrove said the rollout of the videos, which Cooper said took about a year to complete.
The tapes include a 1-minute, 13-second trailer and a full-length video.
The main video, which lasts more than 11 minutes, says the Coast Guard has sent officials to tour the base to consider it as a new home for the aviation wing of its Buffalo sector.
Nonmilitary activities also could be added.
The video tells its audience that U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to place its new Border Patrol location at the base, and it suggests that other agencies could be put there, too.
It specifies the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As advantages for the base, the videos refer to the proximity of technology firms including Moog, Lockheed Martin and Calspan; “abundant low-cost power” from the Niagara Power Project; and large amounts of undeveloped acreage on the base, illustrated with a grassy aerial photo.
The base itself has two runways, including the 11,000-foot main runway that can handle any plane in the U.S. arsenal, as well as four large hangars.
The tape also mentions as sites for further possible development the former Army Reserve station east of the base; a shovel-ready 217-acre field west of the base at Lockport and Packard roads; and the former Bell Aerospace plant, now called the Wheatfield Business Park, with one million square feet of available space.
The county’s Department of Economic Development is currently planning an assessment of the fiber-optic cable available near the base and the adjoining airport.
Speakers seen in the videos include Cooper; County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz, a retired lieutenant colonel of the 914th; Deanna A. Brennen, president and CEO of the Niagara USA Chamber; James W. Kwiatkowski, retired colonel of the 107th; Kimberley A. Minkel, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority; and Shambhu Upadhyaya, director of the University at Buffalo Center of Excellence in Informational Systems Assurance Research and Education.
At the conclusion of the video presentation, the unidentified narrator says, “Ask yourself: Is our country safe without the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station?”