A meeting sorting out how the local economy is affected by the military turned into a meeting where critics questioned the Navy’s benefit to Whidbey Island.
The meeting, held as a fact-finding event for the Washington Military Alliance and facilitated by the Economic Development Council last week, was attended by several critics who questioned whether there was any economic benefit to the island.
The meeting descended as several critics rattled off a litany of complaints about the military, ranging from the noise caused by Growlers conducting touch-and-go training at Outlying Field near Coupeville, questioning how jet emissions will affect the area’s food supply, to being unable to sell property because of the military presence.
“I think it was completely off target,” EDC executive director Ron Nelson said after the Wednesday afternoon meeting held at the Coupeville Public Library. No active-duty military personnel or representatives from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station attended the EDC meeting.
There were several people attending who noted the economic benefit the Navy has to Whidbey Island.
Stan Stanley of Pro Whidbey Associates said 52 percent of Whidbey Island’s economy can be attributed to the Navy and Lynda Eccles, director of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, said the Navy provides people who are drawn to the events that take place throughout the year.
The Washington Military Alliance was convened by the governor’s office and the state congressional delegation to demonstrate to the Department of Defense and policy makers that the state’s current military installations and resources in the state promote national security and are a wise fiscal investment. The military alliance will coordinate a unified message when military budget decisions are being considered.
John Lane, executive policy advisor for military issues at the governor’s office, noted several decisions that could affect the military, most notably sequestration — mandatory federal cuts along with tax increases, a shift of military resources to Asia and preparation for a possible base closure and realignment process.
The Washington Military Alliance tasked the Economic Development Council with conducting several meetings on Whidbey Island, for a company — Denny Miller Associates — to gather information.
In addition to the forum last week, company officials met with members of the NAS Whidbey Task Force, city officials and base leaders, Nelson said.