A state lawmaker from Niagara County is hoping to take proactive steps to further secure the long-term future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station by developing an extensive emergency services and management hub on part of the grounds.
State Senator Robert Ortt, a Republican from North Tonawanda, announced Monday that $500,000 in seed money is included in the state budget to get the project started. Once more support is in place, the hub would be home to operations for numerous agencies and possibly Mercy Flight.
"It would be a world-class first response emergency disaster preparedness center, really for Western New York," Ortt said. "Not just for Niagara County but for Western New York. There would be numerous stakeholders involved, namely the 107th Air National Guard, Mercy Flight, as well as Niagara County Emergency Services and Niagara County Sheriff's Department."
Supporters of the project include Congressman Chris Collins, who told reporters that while there are no plans at this time to explore more base closings, the Niagara installation could better its chances of surviving yet another round by diversifying its mission.
"As (the Department of Defense) does look to downsize, what we'd like to make sure they do is view the Niagara Falls Air Base as an expansion site to absorb more and more operations, because of the unique nature of our facilities here and our location," Collins said.
Officials note that the base is Niagara County's largest employer, with more than 3,000 full- or part-time employees. The base's economic impact is estimated at $150 million annually.