Sunday, May 04, 2014

Toomey, Barletta pitch Tobyhanna for Federal Aviation Administration facility: Lawmakers say site is perfect fit for plans to modernize the air traffic control system

HAZLETON — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on Friday asked area business leaders to help with their efforts to bring 7,200 jobs to the Tobyhanna Army Depot.

Toomey, R-Zionsville, said at a news conference at the CAN DO building in downtown Hazleton that the depot would be ideally suited for the Federal Aviation Administration’s plans to modernize the air traffic control system — a project that is being considered for New York state.

According to reports, the first facility to be built for this endeavor will be a $220 million Integrated Control Facility that would consolidate air traffic control efforts in the Northeastern United States.

The FAA is requiring that the new site be within 150 miles of New York City, but currently, locations outside of New York State are not being considered, Toomey said.

Toomey said Tobyhanna would be “ideally suited” for this purpose, and he and Barletta met with more than 30 area economic development leaders whom he said are “putting together a plan, bringing people throughout the region together to help make the strongest possible case” for the Monroe County site.

Toomey said he and Barletta would try to get Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to tour Tobyhanna “so he could see with his own eyes the kind of facility that it is.”

Barletta, R-Hazleton, said the project would bring about 7,200 jobs to the depot over a 10-year period if the FAA decides to designate the facility for the project.

Toomey said those are just the direct jobs that would be created. “You bring 7,200 good, really well paying jobs to this region, specifically to that facility, and you will have other jobs that will come to serve them. … There will be all kinds of growth that will come from that.”

Toomey said some of the jobs would go to current residents, and some would go to people moving to the region.

Barletta said Tobyhanna should be in the running because of the proximity to New York City — about 80 miles.

“The quality of life, the cost of living makes it an attractive place. It doesn’t need to be in New York. So we’re going to continue — the Senator and myself and the entire Pennsylvania delegation — to work very hard make sure Tobyhanna gets a fair opportunity.”

Toomey, Barletta, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and seven other Congressman from Pennsylvania signed a letter sent in January to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta urging equal consideration for Tobyhanna.

Toomey doesn’t know when the FAA might make a decision, and he noted the agency is taking its time.

“I’m not sure that’s all bad. It gives us a chance to continue to make our case, and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.

Toomey said the main reason he and Barletta had the meeting was “to get input on what we could be doing in Washington to encourage more job creation, more economic growth, particularly in Northeastern Pennsylvania.” He said there was “a range of issues brought up, but we did spend I think most of the time with trying to bring the FAA to Tobyhanna.”

Barletta said there will be follow-up meetings to answer policy questions some attendees had, and their concerns would be taken back to Washington.

“The good thing for us is to see such an organized cross-section of counties working together as allies, and that has not always happened in the past and that doesn’t happen in all parts of Pennsylvania or around the country,” Barletta said.

“It’s very positive for an area, where you have economic development people from Scranton working with people from Hazleton and Schuylkill County and all on the same page to bring jobs,” he said.

Toomey agreed, saying a united front is needed.

“It’s going to be tough because the New York guys are making every bit as much an effort, and the advantage they have is that the big facilities are there now, so they’re going to argue that they shouldn’t lose them,” Toomey said.

“We’ve got to make the argument that this is what’s best for the FAA, it’s best for the American taxpayer and it will be best for those employees who come here,” he said.

Story and photos:

Congressman Lou Barletta, left, and Senator Pat Toomey discuss bringing an air traffic control system facility to the Tobyhanna Army Depot.