Like countless other communities across the nation, North Whidbey and the Oak Harbor have felt the sting of hard economic times in recent years.
That’s why the news that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station projects will be funded to the tune of $117 million is very welcome.
The funding is included in the National Defense Authorization Bill, approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama.
NAS Whidbey is the island’s biggest employer. In fact, with approximately 10,000 employees, NAS Whidbey is four times the size of the next nearest employer in Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, according to a recent Island County Economic Development Council study.
In that report, the EDC said the Navy base contributed $726 million dollars in salaries to Island County’s economy in 2011 and $15 million to Skagit County.
Despite diverging opinions about the Navy’s presence on Whidbey Island, in particular at OLF Coupeville, the numbers can’t be discounted or ignored — the base is the lifeblood of the North Whidbey community.
Such a sizable investment into the base by the Defense Department clearly shows that NAS Whidbey is highly valued as a military asset.
“These construction dollars will create good jobs on Whidbey Island and further cement NAS Whidbey Island’s role in our national defense,” said Congressman Rick Larsen, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
During a Oak Harbor Navy League luncheon late last year, Larsen told the gathering that the base’s future on the island is “secure.” It appears he was right.
Money for the projects will undoubtedly trickle down and provide an infusion of much-appreciated cash into small- and medium-sized businesses across Whidbey Island and into Skagit County.
Funding for NAS Whidbey is apportioned as follows:
- $32 million is allotted for EA-18G Growler facility improvements;
- $85 million for P8-A Poseidon facilities, and;
- $10 million to replace the fuel pier breakwater.
These projects are exactly the kind of boost that other communities are longing to receive.
Even as the Navy’s EIS on OLF noise and the proposed new Poseidon squadrons move forward, the importance of the government funding of these projects cannot be understated.