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Editorial: A pursuit we should all get behind

July 27, 2012
The Alpena News

Mix some cautious optimism, hopeful thinking, and sideline cheerleading and you know how we are feeling today about the news that Alpena County is close to applying to make Alpena County Regional Airport a Center of Excellence. That move could help it land a bigger prize - a drones business.

The airport and University of Michigan's aerospace engineering faculty would develop an unmanned aircraft system, including test site procedures and other requirements demanded of the Federal Aviation Administration. This would lead to an industry cluster at the airport and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

The news of the pursuit by itself is reason to cheer. Not only in a tight economy, but in today's competitive business climate those who sit on the sidelines are destined to stay there. By becoming an aggressive player, the county is choosing to try and land something that would help the local economy, and possibly see it take off.

The county is taking a risk with our tax dollars, but those who have been elected to make those decisions are doing what they believe is needed to make our county and region better and stronger. Alpena - and all of Northeast Michigan - needs something to jump-start not only a recovery for the area, but a catalyst to better times for years to come.

On its own, the drones project would bring jobs - better paying ones at that - to an area that historically has higher unemployment than the rest of the state. On top of that, there will be support businesses that could locate here, not to mention the ripple effect it would have on existing businesses in Alpena and the surrounding counties. On top of that, add the local jobs that could be had in the construction of the facilities.

"These are going to be high-paying jobs, but we're more excited about the spinoff of this and the jobs that it creates. I think down the road this could be bigger for Alpena than what the cement plant was years ago," board of commissioners Chairman Cam Habermehl told The News. "We have some pretty big heavy hitters involved from Gov. (Rick) Snyder, Sen. Carl Levin, (state Rep.) Pete Pettalia and (state Sen.) John Moolenaar. The higher-ups at the FAA and military are also involved. Everyone is really positive about the project, and I think it is going to happen. We still have a lot of work to do, but I think it is finally going to take off."

Having elected officials in our corner also helps. Every little bit helps.

This is not a guarantee, so there is caution to be exercised. There is no telling what can happen, but this is a positive for Alpena.

We applaud the county for making this move and are hopeful that it could be the beginning of an exciting in Northeast Michigan.



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