WESTFIELD, Mass. – Gov. Patrick, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice today joined federal, state and local officials to for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the new runway at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport and Barnes Air National Guard Base, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014.
“This infrastructure investment at Barnes will bring jobs and economic development, strengthening the region and our military bases,” said Patrick. “The completion of this runway is a validation that our growth strategy to invest in education, innovation and infrastructure to create opportunity is working.”
The completion of the runway fills a critical infrastructure need to the airfield used by civilians, industry and the military, and brings opportunities for continued economic growth to the region. Fixing the runway was imperative for safe operations on both the military and civilian sides of the airport, and it took a strategic mix of funding resources from federal, state, and local government agencies to make it a reality.
“This runway project enhances our ability to perform our 24/7 aerospace control alert mission, or ACA, to protect the northeastern United States, and our ability to provide military support worldwide," said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander, Massachusetts Air National Guard. "We are grateful for the combined contributions to complete the construction, for the good of many," said Keefe.
Completion of this $21 million runway project fills a critical infrastructure need to the airfield jointly used by civilians, industry, and the military, which will help maintain and even increase the positive economic impact to the local area.
"It's no secret that the Massachusetts Air National Guard has some of the best trained, most capable Airmen to ensure the air defense readiness and security of this nation,” said Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, Director of the Air National Guard. “It's one of the reasons America places such trust in our National Guard as a whole. With this newly renovated and fully mission-capable runway at Barnes Air National Guard Base the Air Guard will be better able to protect the homeland and fight America's wars. I applaud the efforts of the numerous organizations and agencies who worked together to complete this runway project, and I welcome back the 104th Fighter Wing's F-15 fighter aircraft to Barnes,” said Clarke.
A collaborative approach to make the Westfield-Barnes upgraded runway project possible was led over the last two years by the Commonwealth’s Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force in partnership with the City of Westfield.
"Massachusetts and the National Guard become stronger with the re-opening of this runway; our readiness increases and our economy grows," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. “This project is a crucial step forward for the security of Massachusetts. This airfield - funded by local, state and federal agencies - directly supports the Massachusetts National Guard, national defense and the local economy. Thanks to the strong team forged between the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, the Commonwealth's Department of Transportation and Aeronautics Division and other key state partners, this project gives us a hub of air defense and air travel for all to use in the northeast long into the future,” said Rice
In 2012, Governor Patrick supported the Task Force’s creation to assess each installation’s military assets, infrastructure, and growth opportunities. The Task Force is co-chaired by Patrick, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, and former U.S. Sen. William “Mo” Cowan. The six military bases include Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield; Fort Devens; Hanscom Air Force Base; Joint Base Cape Cod; Natick Soldier Systems Center; and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. These installations account for a total economic impact of $14.2 billion and more than 46,500 Massachusetts jobs. At Barnes Air National Guard Base there are 1,760 jobs with an economic of $126 million to the Massachusetts economy.
The 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts National Guard, is equipped with the F-15 Eagle. One of several missions of the 104th is Aerospace Control Alert (ACA), providing armed fighters ready to scramble in a moment’s notice to protect the Northeast from any airborne threat. The unit is responsible for protecting a quarter of the nation’s population and one third of the Gross Domestic Product.