Local News

Stimulus money jump-starts work on Guard headquarters

Posted May 26, 2009 12:12 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2009 4:40 p.m. EDT

— State officials on Tuesday broke ground on a $56 million headquarters for the North Carolina National Guard.

In addition to serving as the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, the 237,000-square-foot building will house the state Division of Emergency Management and communications offices for the State Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation.

The state received about $41.5 million in federal economic stimulus money for the project. Officials set aside the remaining $14.5 million from the state general fund and Highway Trust Fund.

"It's going to allow our guard to continue to be prepared for global missions, and it really will help North Carolina when a disaster strikes home," Gov. Beverly Perdue said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

More than a third of the 12,000 National Guard members based in North Carolina are deployed overseas.

Perdue noted that the N.C. National Guard suffered its 11th casualty in Iraq last week when a suicide bomber killed three members of the Fayetteville-based 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, including 1st Lt. Leevi Barnard of Mount Airy.

"They really do need a new headquarters because they are constantly on alert and they constantly serve around the globe," she said.

National Guard Maj. Gen. William Ingram said the new headquarters also is needed for practicality, noting the state's units are now based in a 40-year-old facility. Some offices are housed in temporary trailers.

"This is the nerve center of the National Guard of North Carolina," Ingram said of the new headquarters.

The building will be on an 18-acre site west of Blue Ridge Road and north of Wade Avenue. It is scheduled to be finished within two years.

Work on the project is expected to create up to 4,200 jobs. Officials said some jobs might last a couple of months, while others could last more than a year.

"It will employ everybody from constructions workers to plumbers, electricians (and) tile people," Ingram said. "That's part of the economic stimulus package."

Perdue credited Fourth District Congressman David Price with securing funding for the Army National Guard account in the federal recovery legislation.

Once the new headquarters opens, the National Guard will continue to use its current facility. Officials said the transition of the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve requires more facilities to meet the increased demands.