Governor’s group studied economic impact of an OLF

Published 9:36 am Friday, November 2, 2007

By Staff
Despite jobs, northeastern counties still opposed
Staff Writer
RALEIGH — Despite the promise of high-paying federal jobs to staff an outlying landing field, the Navy heard Thursday that counties in northeastern North Carolina still oppose an OLF at any of four sites being considered in that region.
At the third gathering of Gov. Mike Easley’s OLF Study Group in Raleigh, J. Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor for economic development at East Carolina University, gave an overview of the jobs an OLF would bring.
An OLF at any of the 22 proposed sites in North Carolina and Virginia would create 52 jobs, according to information the Navy supplied Morris. Those positions would have a payroll of $2,785,996 with individual salaries ranging from $49,000 to $62,000, according to Morris.
Morris said his report was not a cost/benefit analysis and was not intended to indicate wherefrom the jobs would be filled. Rear Adm. David Anderson, the Navy’s top officer on the OLF project, said the proposed facility would be entirely staffed by civilians.
The promise of jobs wasn’t enough for Gates County Interim Manager Melinda Hoggard. With the third lowest general fund balance in the state, she said Gates County could not recover from the negative economic impacts of an OLF.
Two of the new sites proposed in September — Sandbanks and the Old Railroad Grade site — are in Gates County.
Randell Woodruff, Camden County manager, painted a similarly bleak picture of his county if an OLF were to be sited there. Two of the six sites proposed in September — Hales Lake and Northwest River — are in Gates County. Two other possible sites are in the southeastern portion of the state. A decision from the Navy on whether to formally consider any of the six new sites is expected on or around Nov. 15, according to Anderson.
With a landmass of 240 square miles, at places a mere five miles wide, Woodruff said a 30,000-acre OLF footprint would take a huge chunk of a county that has made “tremendous” economic progress in recent years.
Woodruff said his biggest concern was the possibility of an OLF lowering land value in Camden County. Land value there “skyrocketed” from its proximity to Hampton Roads, revenue from which Woodruff said the county is dependent.
Jeffrey Jennings, chairman of the Camden County Board of Commissioners, said an OLF at Hales Lake would “consume 100 percent of” his farm and two neighboring farms. Speaking on behalf of his county, Gates County, Perquimans, Pasquotank and Currtituck counties, Jennings said the jobs and revenue the Navy is promising would not cover what an outlying field would take from the region.