YUMA - Over the years, the F-35 has had its share of technical kinks, as well as criticism over its costs. But one cost that will not be a problem for Yuma, is the impact it'll have on the local economy.
Hundreds of billions of dollars have gone into the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Each F-35B costs about 238 million dollars. Now we'll see if the investment was worth it. Yuma will get first crack at making some of that money back. You might call the f-35 ... A bird of pay.
"Everyone is very excited and supportive of this aircraft and we're very glad to have it in the community," says Julie Engel, CEO and President of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation.
"Well, we've already felt a significant impact from the construction. In 2011 about 125-million was awarded and we've probably seen that number reach 500 million in contracts, construction contract, that could go as high as three-quarters of a billion dollars in construction contracts," states Engel.
Today's F-35 is the first of 16 scheduled to arrive in Yuma during the next year. Each new state-of-the-art joint strike fighter brings more people, more jobs and more spending to the desert southwest.
"We've already had some of the new squadron people on the ground buying homes and renting homes, so we're seeing an impact two-fold, I would say at this point," says Engel.
And there are more F-35's on the way.
"Well, the record of decision that was made by the Department of Defense was that Yuma would have 5 squadrons and one OT&E squadrons."
Each squadron brings 16 planes and 311 people. An OT&E is essentially a half-squadron. If you do the math, that's 88 F-35's and nearly 1,800 people to maintain them. The boom to the local economy could be huge, barring sequestration.
"Sequestration is the down-sizing with the withdrawals from both conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and with budget cuts we could see some withdrawal of enlisted, so we just don't know what that's going to look like until probably 2013," explains Engel.
Capt. Staci Reidinger of MCAS Yuma says the F-35 project has already dumped more than 20 million dollars into the local Yuma economy by way of subcontractors and purchasing materials.
Julie Engel says local subcontractors are given priority to help keep the much needed jobs in Yuma.
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