A little less than a year ago, the U.S. Air Force announced that Gowen Field in Idaho’s Treasure Valley was among five finalists as a base for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission.
Locating an F-35 mission at Gowen Field, headquarters of the Idaho Air National Guard, would strengthen the U.S. military, help keep America safe, bolster Idaho’s military community — and it would be a tremendous boost for Idaho’s economy and job opportunities.
Since the December 2016 announcement, Idaho’s civic and business leaders have rallied to encourage the Air Force to select Gowen Field for the F-35 mission. Idaho’s governor, congressional delegation, mayors, county leaders, and business leaders have sent letters to the Air Force secretary, published supportive articles and essays in Idaho newspapers, and encouraged citizens to join the cause.
All of this support is important, because one of the criteria the Air Force looks at in making decisions about locating aircraft missions is the depth and strength of community backing.
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Now, thanks to professional survey research commissioned by Zions Bank to measure support for the Idaho Air National Guard and the Gowen Field F-35 mission, we also know that Idaho citizens in the region are just as enthusiastic about the potential F-35 mission as are civic and business leaders.
The survey, conducted at the end of September by national polling firm Cicero Group/Dan Jones & Associates, used a sample size of 1,003 respondents in the Treasure Valley area, with a possible error margin of plus/minus 3 percent.
It showed that the vast majority of Treasure Valley citizens (82 percent) supports a new flying mission after the A-10 Warthog is retired in 2021, support the F-35 as the next flying mission (73 percent), and strongly support the Idaho Air National Guard being located at Gowen Field (92 percent).
The survey showed that those who are concerned about the new mission are mostly worried about noise, and would most likely change their opinion if they had more information and could hear the new planes themselves. Support rises once citizens know that audible noises would be limited to 10 minutes or less, roughly four to six aircraft, mostly in the morning and evening.
Clearly, the F-35 mission has deep and strong support among Idaho citizens, especially after they learn more about these incredibly sophisticated fighter jets, the importance of the mission, and the value to Idaho and its economy.
Gowen Field has a rich history in our nation’s military mission. Over the past 70 years, it has been home to nine types of fighter aircraft. It would be a shame to lose that mission as the A-10 is retired over the next several years.
Gowen Field’s location offers many advantages to permanently base a squadron of F-35s, including optimal weather, many miles of quality airspace with varied terrain, world-class facilities, and community support as strong as anywhere in the country.
Its close proximity to Mountain Home Air Force Base and Hill Air Force Base would allow for unmatched counter air training opportunities between multi-generation aircraft. It would maintain the region’s status as one of the Air Force’s premier locations for training the nation’s airmen and women to the highest standards in preparation for real-world challenges.
With 1,388 direct employees, $136 million total labor income impact, and more than $155 million total annual economic contribution, the Idaho Air National Guard is critically important to Idaho’s economy. Even more jobs and opportunities are expected if the F-35s come to Gowen Field.
Zions Bank has a long history of supporting the military, not only in providing military-specific banking, but in supporting individuals through service opportunities, programs and events. We care deeply about our military community and are committed to the success of the Idaho Air National Guard.
I encourage you to learn more about this mission at www.gowenstrong.com. You can add your name to supporters of the F-35 mission at www.gowenstrong.com/show-your-support.html.
Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Zions Bank.