KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kalamazoo County commissioners voted to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s proposed plans to install a missile defense system at Ft. Custer in Battle Creek.
It’s a big project that supporters say will bring money and new jobs to the area.
At the meeting, the commissioners voted in an overwhelming majority that the missile defense system is the best for the area in terms of economic activity. Ultimately, the federal government will decide where it goes. They are currently looking into four different locations.
But the citizens that showed up to the meeting were not in support of the project. More than dozen residents spoke about their concerns of putting a missile defense system in their back yard.
However, Commissioner Michael Seals thinks the opposite. “For now we need to at least put our hat in the ring. If the money is going to come, then why not get it in our county?”
The commissioners say the defense system will bring huge benefits: $22 million in salaries, 300 jobs, 1800 spin-off jobs, and $700 million in new construction, not to mention, one of the most technologically advance defense missile systems in the United States.
“We could use a boost in our economy,” said Seals.
The majority of the jobs will go to military professions, but after that the government expects the base to use local contractors, so the area will feel a trickle down effect economically.
“Now, if you’ve ever been around a military base, we tend to spend a lot of money, us military people,” said Seals. “When we go out in the community and spend our money, that’s what we spend our money on thats what we do.”
Jen Dewaele spoke up against the missile defense system at the meeting. She said that a life free of war is more important than money.
“It’s really important for people to want to say yes to life and diplomacy. We don’t want to spend federal dollars on things that increase fear, and increase war,” she said.
“In my years of experience–I was in the Navy and I was in Lebanon–I believe a strong defense provides a strong offense. I believe this defense will help the U.S. military maintain its defense,” says Seals.
The next step in the process is the environmental impact study. That won’t be finished until next year.