Move of 139th provides rare opportunity at Rosecrans Airport

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St. Joseph Post

A rare economic development opportunity is opening for St.
Joseph as the National Guard 139th Airlift Wing moves into new
facilities at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.

St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Patt Lilly says the
creation of a new Airlift base will make available the current base for development,
allowing St. Joseph city officials to make pitches to a wide variety of

“We are seeing and have seen in the last several years more
interest in facilities adjacent to airports, facilities that can be reached by aircraft,
such that whether it’s an airplane manufacturer or perhaps a logistics company
where they can land at Rosecrans and then taxi up to a facility,” Lilly tells
St. Joseph Post.

The 139th is moving, from the south side of Rosecrans
to the north side. It will move the Air Guard base to higher ground, reducing
the threat of flooding, and move the base into new facilities. The Guard will
leave behind the current base built in the 50s, which could be retrofitted for
other uses or demolished to make way for new construction.

Lilly says the current location could attract several types of
businesses. It also could become a location for other military uses, noting
that the Pentagon has been relocating Army detachments closer to airports and
especially Air Guard units. He says general aviation businesses might consider
the location.

“But I think it simply makes it an attractive and viable
economic development tool to bring new companies or new jobs to the area and
that only will help the ability for the city to generate income from
potentially leasing facilities or leasing land adjacent to the airport,”
according to Lilly.

Rosecrans flooded in 1993 when the Missouri River overran the
levee protecting Rosecrans, Elwood, and Wathena. Floodwaters threatened again
this year, but a massive sandbagging effort spurred by members of the 139th
saved the area from flooding this year.

Lilly sees great opportunity at Rosecrans, which he notes is
much larger than most know, though much of the area west of the Missouri River
is now being farmed.

“And even adjacent to that, when you look at Elwood and the
railroad spur that runs over to Elwood and Wathena, those are all areas that I
think are ripe for future development,” according to Lilly. “The one nice thing
is they have flat land and that’s the challenge for us in St. Joseph, we have
very little flat land.”