Ethanol plant news caps off eventful week

Freedom Newspapers

The past week started with 13 months of uncertainty. It ended with three doses of euphoria in five days.

When people reminisce years from now about what was the best single week of good news, the past seven days will rank near the top.

First, on Sunday and Monday, we carried the palpable uncertainty about Cannon Air Force Base’s future, though news and rumors have been positive since early this year.

Tuesday started out the same but by midmorning official word came that the 16th Special Operations Wing would move into Cannon by October 2007, replacing the 27th Fighter Wing and its F-16s. Military and civilian jobs could greatly exceed today’s 4,000, and the aircraft totals will rise from 72 jets to 94 non-jet aircraft (a mix of C-130s, helicopters and tilt-wing Ospreys).

The large grins appeared. The relief on faces was instantly evident on the faces of thousands of the region’s residents.

And the happiness widened Thursday night with the arrival of a lightning-laden thunderstorm that drenched our parched agricultural land and our lawns with an inch or so of nourishing rain. They were still quite visible from the stage during Friday night’s performance by Tops In Blue, the renowned Air Force performance troupe that played to an enthusiastic, packed house at Clovis’ Marshall Junior High School.

The euphoria grew Saturday when you read in this paper that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had announced a new ethanol plant for Curry County. It will join the Abengoa plant in Portales in producing the alternative fuel. As the state’s second ethanol plant, it is expected to produce three times Abengoa’s volume in a year and create 50 permanent plant jobs and 50 to 75 more service jobs at other companies.

Richardson explained the plans further during a quick Saturday afternoon visit to Clovis, where he also spoke about Cannon’s new mission, which also includes the Boeing company training air crews at Clovis Community College to fly the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle.

Our euphoria continues this week as we recover from a weekend filled with other celebrations — Badlands Motorcycle Rally, the softball world’s celebrated Custom Classic, the Bellamy Brothers performing at Dairy Fest, the Eastern New Mexico University Foundation’s barbecue. It culminates Saturday with a public party celebrating the success of Operation Keep Cannon. Details are still being worked out but it will involve a visit to the new Clovis Civic Center, where Air Force and congressional dignitaries, led by U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Gov. Richardson, are expected to shed more light on the plans for Cannon and the Melrose range.

And the public will have a chance to see or learn more about the 16th SOW’s aircraft and its men and women and their roles.

Make plans to attend and thank everyone who helped to create the new mission, and to thank the airmen in the 27th Fighter Wing and the 16th Special Operations Wing for their commitment to freedom.

Bring your family, your smiles, your euphoria and your flag. We’ll party now and plan to work hard in the coming months as the transition to the new mission unfolds.