Meetings focus on cargo airport feasibility study

April 26, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program had two meetings Thursday for workforce development professionals in the county to discuss a cargo airport study.

"The feasibility study will tell us if we have a shot at this," IVEDC President and Chief Executive Officer Louis Fuentes said.

The county Board of Supervisors approved paying for half of the study. The Imperial Irrigation District is still mulling the idea of paying for the other half.


A cargo airport can be the catalyst of many things in the Valley — more jobs, a higher standard of living and more business opportunities, Fuente said.

Almost 100 people attended the meetings to learn about the airport proposal and ask questions. A major concern was the failure of a similar project in San Diego.

The Brown Field cargo airport proposal died suddenly when residents of the area where the airport was to be built complained of the noise and traffic the airport would bring.

The San Diego City Council and county Board of Supervisors voted against the airport because of the public outcry.

Imperial County does not have the same issues here, Fuentes said. There is plenty of land in the county. The airport doesn't have to be in someone's back yard.

There's no where else in Southern California that has the available land that Imperial County has, he said.

Another advantage Imperial County has is its location on the border. A lot of cargo moves through the ports of entry, making the county a practical location for an international freight center, Fuentes said.

Investors from the failed Brown Field project are interested in Imperial County but need to see that the community is behind this, he said.

A study for the proposed Brown Field project stated a cargo airport could bring 5,000 to 7,000 union-wage jobs. That would be a substantial increase over the standard of living and quality of life here, Fuentes said.

Imperial Irrigation District Director Rudy Maldonado used Brawley Beef plant's over 600 jobs as an example of how a business could come to the Valley and have an impact on the county's unemployment rate.

Imperial County historically had the highest rate of unemployment in the state. The number has gone down steadily from well over 20 percent to 13.5 percent since the end of last year.

Brawley Beef, which opened in January, has been credited with a major part of that change.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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