March 5, 1968
CONVERSION OF DOW AIR FORCE BASE, BANGOR, MAINE, TO CIVILIAN USES
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, the closing of a military installation can mean real hardship as well as opportunities for the community.
Bangor, Maine, has faced the trauma of learning the Dow Air Force Base will be closed, and the city has responded in a positive way that is a source of encouragement for other communities across the country faced with the same dilemma.
Business Week magazine for January 27 published a report on Bangor's reaction to the upcoming loss of Dow Air Force Base. All of us who have worked with Bangor officials in developing programs for profitably converting the Air Force facility to civilian uses are proud of the city's response to the challenge. The farsightedness and courage of the community's leaders are admired by State and Federal officials who have worked to help Bangor get back on its feet. I ask unanimous consent that the Business Week article appear in the RECORD at this time.
There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
MAKING A SAFE LANDING WHEN AN AIRBASE GOES
Three years ago, as part of an economy cutback that will ultimately close down 56 military bases in the U.S., the Defense Dept. sent its version of the pink slip to Bangor, Me. The bustling city on the Penobscot River was told that Dow Air Force Base – a Strategic Air Command facility located almost entirely within the Bangor city limits – would be closed down on June 80, 1968.
For a less determined community, the blow might have been catastrophic. Among other things, it meant the city would lose a fourth of its 40,000 population, and an annual payroll of $20-million.
But instead of diving en masse into the icy Penobscot that winter, Bangor businessmen and officials went to work on practical solutions – and they appear to have found them. By redoubling efforts in the pursuit of new industry, in educational facilities, and in urban renewal, and by capitalizing on the civilian potential of the soon-to-be-vacated base, Bangor is doing a nimble job of recovering in advance from a blow not yet delivered.
"We knew it had to come one day," says Richard K. Warren, editor of the Bangor Daily News. Although he knew it would be a painful weaning, Warren was philosophical. "A lot of us felt it might be a good thing in the long run," he says, "to get the town back to where it was not so dependent on the base."
When the word came down from the Defense Dept., Bangor leaders promptly formed the Dow Re-use Committee and set out to acquire the base – an estimated $100-million facility – and use it commercially.
Under federal law, the first call on federal land and facilities being vacated goes to other departments and agencies. If no one in the federal establishment is interested, the state, county, and city governments are left to fight it out. Bangor acquired the right to submit a development plan to the Defense Dept. The result: The airport will be transferred to the city by the General Services Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration for $1. For another $1, the University of Maine will acquire base buildings for a branch campus. No price has yet been set on 900 Capehart housing units, on which part of a $13-million mortgage is still outstanding.
Eventually, the committee hopes to make the base a commercial airport, with special emphasis on air-freight to and from Europe. It points out that since New York's Kennedy International Airport is often congested, Bangor's use as a transfer point could do much to relieve it. Only last December, the city scored a dramatic success by persuading Alitalia Airlines to secure permission from the FAA to land passengers – when Kennedy is overcrowded – at Bangor, rather than at Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Gander, Newfoundland. Bangor has also applied for state designation as "port of entry international airport" to make it possible for customs inspectors to clear passengers. Alitalia is expected to begin Bangor operations July 1.
Bangor will be getting not only a large air base – an 11,440-ft. runway, 300-ft. wide, capable of handling supersonic jets – but also more than a dozen buildings that can be converted into terminal facilities. Already, Northeast Airlines has received permission from the Air Force to begin using the airport for training its air crews, and the city is urging other airlines to do the same.
Yet the airport is far from the whole story. Education is booming, a dozen new buildings have gone up, a long-range community planning project has just been completed at a cost of $220,000, and new industry is moving in – most notably Sylvania Electric Products Inc., with a modern assembly plant for manufacturing integrated circuits. Sylvania has already hired 600 workers, most of them women.
Yet none of the companies moving into the area has yet leased any air base building. The reason is suggested by Merle Goff, Bangor's city manager: "The Dow Re-use Committee and the city government would rather take time to get the right companies than to lease the buildings as warehouses to moving companies. There is no employment in warehousing." Peter R. D'Errico, director of the city's economic development department, emphasizes the importance of employment in Bangor thinking: "Our prime interest is in creating jobs. We are looking for industry that needs buildings near an airport – equipment manufacturers who need testing facilities, for instance."
Education, which is proving to be a real growth industry in the Bangor area, has also helped counteract the base closing. The acquisition of $8-million worth of buildings for the University of Maine, whose main campus is eight miles away at Orono, will make Bangor the educational center of the state. Indeed, education is now Bangor's largest generator of income. With more than 7,500 undergraduates – at such Bangor institutions as the Eastern Maine Vocational Technical School, the Bangor Theological Seminary, and Husson College – and with every 1,000 students pumping an estimated $2-million into the economy, the city is finding out just how literally learning pays.
Bangor leaders are optimistic about their economy in spite of the loss of Dow personnel. John Conte, chairman of the Dow Re-use Committee, points out that while wholesalers, auto dealers, laundry operators, and other businessmen large and small are concerned, they're not closing up.
Instead, they're reaching for slightly more distant markets. The 40,000 people in Bangor proper constitute a small market compared with the Bangor trading area of over 350,000.
And Carl Kosobud, director of the city planning office, argues that "a military base is the least stable arrangement for long-range community development." That realization has contributed to Bangor's involvement in the largest urban renewal program in Maine, an $11-million undertaking; in a water pollution control program that will be ready by April, with treatment plants on the Penobscot; and the $220,000 development plan.
The Bangor story has parallels in other cities that have experienced the loss of a military mainstay, and that have decided to do something positive about it.
In Waco, Tex., when James Connally AFB, a navigator-training facility, closed in June, 1966, Wacoites helped persuade the Texas legislature to authorize the James Connally Technical Training Institute. It now has 1,000 students and is shooting for 4,000 more. And some of Waco's ghetto families are being relocated on base housing, where they will get job training and medical care.
In Sidney, Neb., when the Sioux Army Depot closed in June, 1967, the community used it as the site for the Sidney Occupation Training Center financed by the Federal Manpower Development & Training Act. It offers training for automotive mechanics and secretaries.
In Salina, Kan., Schilling Development Corp., a local group, arranged for the conversion of Schilling AFB, another SAC installation, into a municipal airport. Another plus: a new state technical school sponsored by Kansas State University, and three other schools and branch campuses.
In Bangor these days, there is even talk of reviving the salmon-fishing industry, which perished a decade ago as a result of pollution in the Penobscot. With its stream-pollution-control program nearing completion, Bangor hopes it can bring back the salmon. Like that famous fish, Bangorites have learned to swim upstream.