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Several members of the Macomb County Executive Office have been given a spotlight this week at the Mackinaw Policy Conference to make their pitch on the importance of bringing the F 35 Lightning II to Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

The annual conference of the state s movers and shakers began Tuesday. Macomb County will be front and center Wednesday as it makes the pitch to statewide leadership and media to bring the Air Force s newest fifth generation fighter to the state of Michigan.

This is an incredible opportunity, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said of the chance to bring the F35s to Michigan. Selfridge has made its bid to show that it has the best capabilities of any of the sites.

We are very confident that the work by Selfridge and the state of Michigan shows that this is the best strategic location, and now we will also show the value of this acquisition from an economic perspective. If you look at all things being equal, it s really not. We are head and shoulders above the other sites.

Macomb comes into the conference armed with a new study, commissioned by the Michigan Defense Center of Sterling Heights as part of its Protect and Grow strategy, which provides a comparative analysis of each location s ability to prepare, sustain and support the mission.

Among the highlights of the study:

Detroit has the experience Nearly six times the number of defense sector jobs than the rest of the competition combined.

Detroit makes more Detroit meets 73 percent of its defense sector demand locally. Competing locations on average can only meet 20 percent.

Detroit attracts the best talent The region offers a highly trained workforce with a higher degree of qualifications and mission readiness than the competing regions.

Detroit can fill the need Detroit has the necessary trained talent whereas competitors will experience a labor shortage.

Detroit is ready to go At nearly $2 billion annually, Detroit fulfills 33 percent more defense contracts than the closest rival.

Detroit values its veterans With 32 percent more veterans than the competition, Detroit has a more developed workforce with the required experience to service the defense sector.

Selfridge already has the expertise and community resources to help support and launch the F 35 program here in Macomb County, Hackel said in a release prior to gathering with officials on the front porch of The Grand Hotel. Not only would this be a great investment at Selfridge, it would also have a great impact on our community. Air Force s newest fifth generation fighter, the F 35, said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum,commander of Selfridge Air National Guard Base. We have the best airspace, training, facilities, infrastructure and other defense equities all on hand.

When it comes to affordability, capability and proven performance, Selfridge is the smartest choice for our nation and the state.

Hackel added that based upon news reports and social media, Selfridge is the only site that has not received any push back from local residents, which he believes indicates the excitement and the importance of the F35 recognized by the Macomb County community. The F 35 will replace the A 10 Thunderbolt II,
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which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years. Selfridge currently houses a Thunderbolt squadron, which includes 21 aircraft for 18 slots.

Other finalists are Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Ala.; Gowen Field Air Guard Station, Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida; and Truax Air Guard Station in Madison, Wisc. Two locations will be selected to house the F 35.

It s quite a statement to the quality of Selfridge that it s on the list, Hackel said. Getting the F 35 would solidify the base for years to come. This is a generational decision for the base.

Slocum said the addition of the F 35 will help secure the posts of about 1,850 National Guard troops in the 127th Wing at SANG, which in 2014 added $825 million to the local economy, according to Selfridge officials. The Wing also maintains KC 135 Stratotankers, a refueling aircraft, as well as houses units of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and other organizations.

Hackel and Slocum were joined by Sen. Gary Peters (D Michigan) and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

The battlefield is changing rapidly, and Michigan is leading the way in the development of emerging technologies that will help keep our military strong, Peters said. The next generation F 35 stealth fighter will be a critical asset as our military prepares for the next frontier of warfare, and I m working in Washington to highlight the military benefits of Selfridge and Macomb County to be the home of this important mission.
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