Officials says Cannon transition should have minimal economic impact

By marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

An impending personnel dip at Cannon Air Force Base carries little economic threat, according to officials.

Drawdown of assets and personnel at Cannon will coincide with the establishment of the base’s new mission, buffering the effects of the dip, according to Air Force officials.

The Air Force 16th Special Operations Wing assumes ownership of Cannon Oct. 1, 2007.

According to preliminary figures released by the Air Force Special Operations Command, less than 1,500 personnel associated with the 16th SOW will be stationed at the base in fiscal year 2007. That is some 2,500 less personnel than currently employed at Cannon with the 27th Fighter Wing.

Personnel and assets associated with the 27th Wing will be dispersed elsewhere incrementally beginning in 2007. At the same time, 16th SOW personnel and assets will begin to be transferred to Cannon, Air Force officials indicated Thursday via an e-mail.

“The effects to the community surrounding Cannon AFB should be minimal in the aggregate,” Air Force spokeswoman Shirley Curry wrote in an e-mail.

“While there may be a dip in base population during this transition,” the e-mail reads, “the overall population of Cannon AFB will grow significantly.”

By 2010, somewhere between 5,000 to 5,500 people will be assigned at Cannon with the 16th SOW, according to preliminary figures released by the Air Force Special Operations Command.

Eastern New Mexico University Professor of Finance David Hemley agreed with Air Force assessments of the impending personnel dip. Any slowdown in growth should be minimal and fleeting, he said.

“There will be a slowdown of growth, but it will be very, very short-lived,” Hemley said.

Businesses may see a slowdown in activity if personnel numbers are thrown too off balance, he said.

If a lull in business does ensue, Hemley predicted it could last for six to nine months.

His advice for eastern New Mexico: “Play it cool. Don’t panic,” he said.

The transition period between missions could be positive, according to an economic planner hired to design a growth plan for Clovis and Curry County.

“I think it gives the community time to plan as opposed to (the new mission) coming overnight. The promise of these people showing up is there. Growth will be realized,” said John Valdez, a senior planner with Consensus Planning of Albuquerque.