March 6, 2009: Air Force Flight Test Center Established the Edwards Community Council 

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To strengthen its relationship with the local community, the Air Force Flight Test Center established the Edwards Community Council to provide open dialogue between the base and the citizens of the Antelope Valley. The council was spearheaded by the center commander, Maj Gen David Eichhorn. Through the council, it was hoped that communities would get involved with the base. The Edwards Community Council also sought to provide access, events, current information and a channel of open communications between the Edwards Air Force Base leadership and the community.

Hosted by Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn, Air Force Flight Test Center commander, the ECC is comprised of base and local leadership who discuss overarching issues that affect the Antelope Valley.  The two-hour meeting was opened by Col. Jerry Gandy, 95th Air Base Wing commander. Colonel Gandy discussed recent stimulus money the base received as well as the impact the JSF-35 Lightning II project would have on the base and local community.  "We got $37 million from the stimulus," said Colonel Gandy. "That's second-most in the Air Force Materiel Command, we get this money because history shows that we're going to use it properly and wisely. In the past, things of this nature have helped us to fund projects like the updates that are being done to the gates."  "In terms of developmental and operational testing (of the F-35), we'll bring in around 1,000 extra people over the next few years," said the colonel. "That's going to create additional demands, because along with the additional people, comes their families. This increase will fill-out base housing and I don't know if that will be enough, they may also run-up the demand for housing in the local area. We can't bring in 1,000 people without having an impact on the local area, this is going to have an impact on the Antelope Valley, but I can't help but think that it's going to be a positive one."  The second speaker, James Judkins, director of the 95th Civil Engineer and Transportation directorate, discussed plans to build a solar farm on underutilized land in the Northwest portion of the base.  "We're looking at plans for three one megawatt solar plants that would drive down our (energy) demand in the afternoon by at least three megawatts," said Mr.Judkins. "We're also discussing with Southern California Edison, putting in another small (solar) plant near the school to drive down their energy costs as well."  Next to take the stage was Bill Deaver, East Kern Education Resource Network board member, Mr. Deaver spoke about efforts being taken to have a state university constructed in the local area as well as the expansion of educational opportunities at every educational level.  The AFFTC Museum curator, Fred Johnsen, discussed a proposal to move the AFFTC Museum outside the gates of the installation.  Heather Swan, Lancaster Economic Development Council member introduced the council to Destination: Lancaster; a recently opened Lancaster Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helps tourists and local residents understand leisure opportunities in the Antelope Valley.  "We have many great places to visit in this valley," she said. "This bureau is two-fold, it will provide attractions for our residents and second it will bring in tourists, which will further local income. Studies show that our tourists are of a more wealthy demographic than our residents, so of course we want them to come here and patronize our businesses. This could be an economic engine into starting a whole new industry in this area."  General Eichhorn closed the event by saying how beneficial he believes this council will be and by thanking everyone for their participation.  "I want this forum to allow us to discuss and solve common problems together," said general Eichhorn. "It's been great sharing lunch with you; I hope to see you all again next time."

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