By Matt Buxton
As the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division prepares for redeployment, Gov. Sean Parnell visited Fairbanks Wednesday to send off the troops and sign into law legislation to foster private industry support of the Alaska's military bases.
In a small ceremony at his Fairbanks office, the governor signed off on Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson's House Bill 316, which creates military facility zones that extend a slew of business loans and incentives for private enterprise to partner with bases to provide more services and drive costs down.
HB 316 was modeled after similar programs in other states that have successfully driven down the cost of operating bases and, in effect, protected communities from the harsh economic impact of a base closure.
"This bill is a real plus for the whole state," Thompson said. "This gives private industry and the military to utilize federal tax credits to enhance the mission of the military to continue to make sure the military is welcome in Alaska."
Thompson said the idea behind the bill is a private industry, like a unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer or housing company, could work in conjunction with a military base to provide needed goods and services.
"If it can enhance the mission of a military base, it gives a better chance that we can hold onto the military base and that's what's really important," he said. "It makes their mission less expensive and broadens the mission, it's good for all of Alaska."
Parnell pointed out the bill extends to the state's military installations, not just the big, traditional military bases.
"The bill itself will not only help our traditional military facilities," he said, "but facilities like the Alaska Aerospace Corporation in Kodiak."
The event was attended by other Interior Republicans, including North Pole Sen. John Coghill, Chickaloon Rep. Eric Fiege and North Pole Rep. Tammie Wilson, members of the business community, and U.S. Army leadership. Parnell credited lawmakers with working across the aisle on the issue.
"This was a bill that was widely supported across the aisle," he said. "As governor I'm honored to be able to sign HB 316."
Parnell also signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, which dealt with railroad property easements in the North Pole area.
Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Parnell signs military facility zone bill in Fairbanks