A secret, kept in darkness, and hidden from the light, often does not end well. For the residents of Melbourne Florida, a secret was just revealed to them. Northrop Grumman, working in conjunction with Brevard County, the State of Florida, and the Melbourne Airport Authority have announced a major expansion of their business operations at the Melbourne International Airport.
Northrop Grumman’s expansion is big and it has the potential to be a game changer for the south end of Brevard County. Investing hundreds of millions of dollars, and hiring upwards to 1,800 employees, the company has sought and received numerous concessions from state and local authorities for the jobs it is bringing to the community.
As news of the project spread local leaders hailed the coup as one of success and that “miracles can happen here.” Senator Bill Nelson describes Northrop Grumman’s expansion into Brevard with the following prepared statement, “The development and assembly of America’s long-range strike aircraft in Melbourne is a new beginning for the Space Coast.”
Other Space Coast leaders took to calling the announcement with much fanfare and attempted to hype the benefits of bringing so many high paying jobs to an area that has been hit hard by the Great Recession, the collapse of the real estate market, and the termination of the space shuttle program. There is even talk of the next real estate boom as a side effect of Northrop Grumman’s expansion in the community.
The Magellan Project was cloaked in secrecy while local leaders negotiated subsidies for Northrop Grumman. These subsidies, entail millions in dollars of tax breaks that otherwise would have gone to public infrastructure like roads and schools. But, in the interest of the greater good, local leaders gave away millions of dollars in tax breaks in hopes of recouping hundreds of millions in local spending. But at what cost?
Confusion seems to be the buzz word about what Northrop Grumman will be doing at the Melbourne International Airport. Reports have begun to surface that the next generation of B-2 bombers will be designed and manufactured at the facility. In fact Senator Bill Nelson in his press release, confirmed the B-2 bombers would be built in Brevard County.
And, if that is the case, many questions need to be answered. Calls to the Melbourne International Airport resulted in a referral to Northrop Grumman. A call into Northrop Grumman went unanswered. To its credit, the Economic Development Commission of Brevard County at least returned this writers inquiry, however, the representative wished to remain anonymous. The representative advised that if B-2 bombers were built at the Melbourne International Airport, the noises would be “negligible.”
Local leaders need to come forward quickly with explanations. If Northrop Grumman is going to build and test B-2 bombers at the Melbourne International Airport, why was there no community input? Were any feasibility studies done? For those who live close to the airport, will the extraordinary noise that these planes make infringe on the quiet Melbourne is used to?
As the excitement of the Northrop Grumman deal begins to wear off, civic leaders owe the residents of Melbourne answers. Lots of answers.
Right now, civic leaders are busy trying to digest the full effects of this deal that was cloaked in secrecy. And, while those involved in the deal seem to want to continue this secrecy, and perpetuate the confusion, it is worth referring to Northrop Grumman’s own press release about the deal. Tom Vice, Northrop Grumman’s corporate vice president and president of Aerospace Systems advised, “This expansion further cements our strong partnership with Florida, and will greatly benefit our employees, customers and shareholders.”
Did you notice he did not say the expansion would benefit the community of Melbourne or South Brevard?
This deal, while on the surface appears to look like a wonderful opportunity for south Brevard County, has residents beginning to ask a lot of questions of what it is exactly that we have gotten ourselves into.