Portales business owner uneasy about BRAC

Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — One Portales business owner said he doubts his company would survive if Cannon Air Force Base closes.

George Combs, owner of Combs Electric, said he has 20 employees, and 18 of them are working on the runway lights at Cannon Air Force Base.

A retired Korean War veteran, Combs said his company has been doing contract work with Cannon since it opened in 1967.

“Every light and wire on the runway will be new,” Combs said. “I’ve been to a lot of bases that look shady. You couldn’t ask for a better base than Cannon Air Force Base.”

Cannon supporters believe the potential economic impact to Portales might have been left out when the Pentagon recommended the long-time Air Force base for closure.

Erin Ward, a New Mexico State University economist, is creating an economic impact analysis for Portales.
“My gut feeling is that perhaps the impact to Portales was not incorporated to the (economic) study,” Ward said. “We think ours will be more accurate and fair.”

Ward said the study showed 20.5 percent of the jobs in the region will be lost if the base is closed.

“That’s one in five jobs,” Ward said. “That’s unacceptable. I don’t think Portales was included. It could be worse.”

Members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission are scheduled to visit Cannon on June 23 and a regional hearing — where the community can present its case — is being held the following day.

Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Huffman said Wednesday during a meeting of the Keep Cannon Portales Committee that consulting firms are working on a package that would show the military value of Cannon and what was missed by the base-closure recommendations. He said details such as awards for the best safety record, best maintenance, no combat losses and good weather should be taken into account when looking at the base’s military value.

The Keep Cannon Portales Committee met Tuesday with Clovis Cannon supporters to discuss strategy. Also taking part in the meeting were the New Mexico Office for Military Base Planning and Support, members of three consulting firms and representatives from New Mexico’s legislative delegates.

Cannon’s economic impact to the area has been estimated at $200 million per year, and between 20 and 25 percent of the workforce.

There are more than 4,000 active-duty members and civilians at the base, according to Cannon officials.

Freedom Newspaper writer Tony Parra contributed to this report.