Michigan’s strong history in the defense sector dates back to Rosie the Riveter in World War II.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) reports the defense sector supports 105,000 jobs in our state, turning out $9 billion in goods and services.
Michigan wants to continue that tradition by landing the new F-35 fighter jet.
Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County is one of five locations being considered as potential homes for the new jet, and today the county made its case to the Pentagon.
Brigadier General John D. Slocum says only one other Air National Guard base is slated to house a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, an Air National Guard base in Burlington, VT.
Mara MacDonald, a reporter for Detroit’s WDIV-TV, has been covering the story.
MacDonald said the top tier of the Department of Defense is in Macomb County today to assess the Selfridge base and then determine if it’s where the F-35 fighter jet should live.
She said the committee has already visited the four other bases that are in the running.
“It’s interesting that Selfridge is the last stop … and I think the feeling in Macomb is it’s a good sign that we’re last because, you know what they say,” MacDonald said, “saving the best for last.”
According to Slocum, the Air Force eventually wants to place F-35 squadrons at 16 Air National Guard bases across the country. Selfridge is among the finalists for the next two bases to get a squadron.
"There's going to be a lot more [F-35 Squadrons] in the future. I think the smart decision would be put [Selfridge] up front, but what we're really doing is making sure that we're postured properly for the future," Slocum said. "I'm very confident one way or the other we're going to see F-35s at Selfridge."
The secretary of the Air Force is expected to decide which two bases will be next to get F-35 squadrons sometime this summer.
Listen above to hear how Macomb is pitching itself as the best location for the jet. You’ll also hear why the jet could be a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the local economy.
MacDonald said the Pentagon is expected to release a decision by the second week of August.