Enid News: Chamber’s Washington, D.C., visit gets some good news

Enid News
By Jeff Mullin

Enid officials delivered good news about the local economy during the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce visit to Washington, D.C., and re-ceived some good news in return.

During the Enid delegation’s Wednesday visit to the Pentagon, Gen. Philip Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff, said he expects pilot training to be “somewhat stable and actually increase over the next few years,” said Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison, which would appear to be good news for the future of Vance Air Force Base.

“That means there is a lot of work for us to do in the future,” Cooper said.

Along with Breedlove, the Enid group met with Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, and Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

Cooper and Enid Woodring Regional Airport Manager Dan Ohnesorge briefed Pentagon officials on the recently opened joint-use hangar at the airport, plus the ongoing project to lengthen the main runway at Woodring to open it to use by T-38 trainers from Vance, as well as larger private jets.

“She did a quick study on how that (the runway project) will help them with mission capability and, more importantly, help them reduce costs,” Cooper said.

The joint-use hangar and runway expansion are examples of projects funded through a partnership among the city, state and federal government, Cooper said.

“That is the type of community partnership that helps them (Department of Defense) be successful,” he said. “We are one of the examples of how to do that.”

Cooper and Ohnesorge also proposed an idea to Ferguson to establish an aircraft painting facility here that would conduct required periodic repainting of Vance planes, rather than having them fly to Columbus AFB, Ga., or Randolph AFB, Texas, for new paint jobs.

“She thought that was an awesome idea if that was able to happen,” Cooper said.

Cooper and Ohnesorge also met with Federal Aviation Administration officials concerning additional funding for the $5.8 million runway expansion project. Presently, the city already has obtained more than half the funding from state and federal sources.

“There is a possibility of end-of-year dollars or dollars from next year being available for the runway project,” said Cooper.

Besides their Pentagon visit, the Enid delegation also met with several members of Enid’s congressional delegation, Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and Reps. Frank Lucas, James Langford and Dan Boren.

Jon Blankenship, president and chief executive officer of Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, said the Enid delegation “had the opportunity to give an Enid business overview.”

The Oklahoma delegation was briefed on Enid’s unemployment rate of less than 4 percent, far below that of the nation and slightly below the Oklahoma rate; the city’s rising sales tax collection (up 17 percent for 2012); and the local energy industry boom.

Mayor Bill Shewey and members of Enid City Commission briefed congressmen on the city’s continued investment in itself through $100 million in improvements to Enid Public Schools, the ongoing Renaissance Project, the master trail system and wastewater treatment system.

“All the congressional delegation applauded the fact we are not pursuing federal dollars to make the improvements we are making,” Blankenship said.

A business overview was presented by Enid Regional Development Alliance Director Brent Kisling, highlighting the energy boom.

“We expressed our opposition to federal regulation of the oil and gas industry, and our opposition to federal regulation of hydraulic fracking,” Blankenship said. “The Oklahoma delegation is on board with that position.”

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center CEO Stan Tatum briefed the delegation on how the medical sector was a key part of Enid’s economy, Blankenship said, and outlined how medical providers are caught between revenue reduction through Medicare cuts and increasing cost mandates.

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