Local News

Goldsboro Residents Worry About Seymour Johnson Closure

Posted November 5, 2003 9:56 a.m. EST

— They pump billions of dollars into the state's economy and employ thousands.

A recent study showed military bases and posts like Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson are the third-leading economic force in Eastern North Carolina.

Another list of base closings is due out next year. Early speculation -- analyst-driven speculation -- puts a target on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Seymour is one of the state's smaller bases, and the criteria for base realignment does not come out until next month. But people down east are getting worried.

Like tobacco troubles and textile layoffs, closing Seymour Johnson would leave a crater in the local economy.

From Goldsboro to Baghdad, the F-15Es of the 4th Fighter Wing rule the skies. Their home, Seymour Johnson, has become a fixture in Wayne County.

The Goldsboro base's 6,500 active-duty airmen and 1,100 civilian employees pump an estimated $450 million into the local economy. They buy homes and cars and help keep businesses alive.

Therefore, any talk about base closings launches anxiety.

"It scares me really bad," said restaurant owner Cliff Worthington.

Worthington said the base is vital to Goldsboro's quality of life.

"It means everything to us," he said. "But they are also our friends and neighbors. They're just very important, and it would be devastating."

Troy Pate chairs the Seymour Support Council for the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. His group works to cover all the angles that might make the base vulnerable -- like encroaching development and restricted low-level flight routes. He said any speculation on closure is premature until the hit list comes out, but "I think everyone has the right to be concerned.

"My philosophy is that you do everything you can to protect your base," Pate said. "If you lose, then you've lost. But, I would hate to come back after we lost and say: 'I wish we'd have done somthing.'"

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is heading a group that is trying to keep all the state's military installations off the hit list. A summit is planned for Nov. 13 at Fort Bragg to talk about the issue.