Representatives of the city, county and businesses, 11 in all, visited Alexandria, La., this week to see how that community has handled the closing of its military base. There is concern, though not certainty, that Naval Air Station Meridian could be targeted for closure.
County administrator Tony Green says the group returned believing that what Alexandria had done Meridian could do, if necessary.
Alexandria has transformed its 2,700-acre closed Air Force base, similar in size to our NAS, into various industries including an 850-job manufacturing plant, a day care center, retirement homes, an active golf course and rented the former base housing to retirees.
"The most important part of what we learned was what they have done since then," said Lauderdale County administrator Tony Green. "They've developed an industrial park from what used to be the Air Force base. I think one of the most important aspects that I keep referring back to was unity among the leaders. That you have to bring your community leaders, whether it's businessmen, city council, county leaders, all your individual team players have to unify and to work together to come up with what would be but for the future utilization of the base."
They say it's not doomsday, even if NAS Meridian were closed.
District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt described himself as optimistic after seeing what the Louisiana city had done.
"Within an hour of hearing the discussions there at England Air Force Base, my eyes were opened to the fact that we can be successful if we take the right steps," Hitt said. "And the planning that we're doing now is a big part of that, and that's what we were reminded of quite often on this trip that we've got to be prepared in the event that the base is on the list and possibly is closed in the future."
Hitt said that type of teamwork is more than just important, it's crucial.