Two months left

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

With roughly two months left until the Air Force announces the winner of the Introductory Flight Training (IFT) program, there is little left for the communities still in the running to do but sit and wait for the decision.

Selma faces competition from at least one other town, Midland, Texas, but The Times-Journal has been unable to confirm whether or not those are the only two communities left in the process. Local economic officials, Midland officials and Air Force officials have declined to comment until the announcement is made.

In the third and final installment of our series looking at the IFT project and the communities known to be vying for it, we take a look at Midland and their bid for the flight school using.

History

Midland began as a rail town in West Texas in the 1880’s.

Today, this community is home to nearly 100,000 people and has an economy based in oil. According to the Web site www.visitmidlandtx.com.

The Permian Basin, of which Midland is the geographic center, contains 22% of the nation’s oil reserves.

As of the

year

2000, there are 94,996 people, 35,674 households, and 25,221 families residing in the city. The population density is 550.6/km (1,426.2/mi). There are 39,855 housing units at an average density of 231.0/km

(598.3/mi). The racial makeup of the city is 75.51 percent White, 8.37 percent

African American, 0.63 percent

Native American, 1.01 percent

Asian, 0.03 percent

Pacific Islander, 12.49 percent from

other races, and 1.96 percent from two or more races. Also 28.99 percent of the population are

Hispanic or

Latino of any race, according to Census reports.

What Midland has to offer:

Midland has partnered with DynCorp, a leading professional services and project management firm with global expertise in aviation services, logistics, and security operations.

A letter drafted by U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway and signed by 27 members of the Texas congressional delegation clearly outlined what the senator believes to be Midland’s advantages in the race for the flight school that would bring in about 1,300 students annually.

The project is expected to bring about 330 jobs with it and carry a substantial economic impact on the city that wins it.

The Air Force requires that the winning bid be able to house the students as well as feed them and provide transportation to the nearest major airport.

Midland has an international airport and a local businessman has offered to house the students in his hotel, according to the Reporter Telegram.

Conaway told the paper that Airport Plaza Inn owner Shafik Tejani will dedicate a section of his motel to house more than 1,300 student pilots a year.

Conaway said the plan described to him by Mayor Mike Canon, Chamber of Commerce President John Breier and City Manager Rick Menchaca June 28 in Washington said 20,000 square feet of floor space in Deer Horn Aviation hangars would be used for six classrooms for young officers to take in 40 days of instruction each. They’d also practice flying in single-engine propeller airplanes.

Since President George W. Bush is from Midland as is General Tommy Franks, it appears Conaway believes political connections will also help Midland in their bid.

The Reporter-Telegram reported that Conaway said it might help for Gen. Michael &8220;Buzz&8221; Moseley, a native Texan and Texas A&M University graduate, to have just been confirmed as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, though the decision will be more in the purview of Gen. William Looney, AETC commander at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.

According to the Reporter- Telegram, a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the combination of Cornyn, an Armed Services Committee member, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a member of the Appropriations Committee, should be effective. &8220;Between the two, they cover the whole spectrum between authorization and appropriations,&8221; he said.

&8220;It just makes sense to come to Texas because we have the climate, open spaces, lack of encroachment and community support &045; everything the Air Force needs to have a successful operation. Midland has the facilities and infrastructure to help bring those missions in.&8221;

Challenges Midland must overcome:

Selma’s bid seems to be a popular one in political circles as well.

Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby have lent their support to the Selma project and Selma’s proximity to Maxwell Air Force base is considered to be a major positive according to Lockheed-Martin officials speaking earlier this year.

In fact, Lockheed-Martin visited several sites across the country before choosing Selma, though the Times-Journal has been unable to confirm whether or not Lockheed considered Midland for the project.

Another challenge for Midland is Lockheed’s strength.

Lockheed-Martin is a Fortune 500 Company, the nation’s largest defense contractor and has projects literally around the United States. According to their Web Site, Lockheed did $35.5 billion in sales in 2004 alone.

Lockheed has 130,000 employees in the United States and internationally and operates 939 facilities in 457 cities and 45 states throughout the U.S.; Internationally, business locations in 56 nations and territories.

In fact, that Lockheed chose to partner with Dallas County is considered a win by local economic officials.