Base development credit ready for vote

JUNEAU — Businesses and communities around Alaska are one step closer to getting economic incentives to develop areas around the state’s military bases and facilities after the House State Affairs Committee cleared the bill on Tuesday.

Its sponsor, Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said HB316 is modeled after laws in Texas and Virginia that allow communities to label an area a “military facility zone.”

The designation would make state and federal funding available for projects that save the base money and create the opportunity for more on-base operations. They could include a contractor setting up an unmanned aerial drone training center or a construction company building a school or housing if there’s an influx of troops.

Thompson began working on the bill last year, before the U.S. Air Force announced plans to move F-16 fighter planes based at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks, to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. The plans led to fears the base could be targeted for further reductions.

“We need to hurry up and get to this one because it’s especially important with everything going on,” Thompson said.

But it’s not only Eielson that would benefit. Officials from Alaska Aerospace Corp., a state-owned group tasked with boosting aerospace industry, told the State Affairs Committee the bill could help them expand the Kodiak Launch Complex and find revenue sources around other bases.

“This is broad enough for communities to do what they want,” said Dale Nash, the group’s chief executive officer. “Businesses would like to do whatever work they can, and this just makes more opportunities for that to happen.”

Thompson’s bill is expected to make it the House floor for a vote by next week. It will move to the Senate if it clears the House.

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