Cherry Point ready for monumental decade to continue vital role in New Bern area

Cherry Point ready for monumental decade to continue vital role in New Bern area

September 17, 2021

 

From New Bern Sun Journal

Havelock is home to the 29,000-acre Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, which is poised for unprecedented growth and impact on the New Bern area.

It is the largest marine air station on either coast and only one capable of operating 24/7, 365 days a year.

“To just start talking about the vital importance of Cherry Point marine base, you know, I essentially don’t know where to start and where to stop,” said Mayor Dana Outlaw of New Bern. “It’s unimaginable to think what New Bern and Craven County would be without the airbase.”

In 2019, Cherry Point had a total population of 39,364 and an economic footprint of more than $2 billion in the region.

Over the next decade, MCAS Cherry Point will welcome F-35 joint strike fighters to its campus.

Over the next decade, MCAS Cherry Point will become the largest joint strike fighter base in the nation as it will build three F-35 maintenance hangars and welcome six new squadrons by 2028.

Each squadron will have 10 aircrafts, bringing the total to 60 new aircrafts at the base. With 200 people per squadron, that is 1,200 people moving to the New Bern area in the next 10 years.

Four of the squadrons will employ the F-35B joint strike fighter, which is the short take off vertical landing variant and two will employ the F-35C which is the carrier variant, said Col. Mikel Huber, commanding officer of MCAS Cherry Point.

The $150 million project broke ground in September 2020, and the first P-199 hangar will be complete in 2022. The first squadron will move in summer 2023.

There will be three F-35 hangars built by 2028.

“The amount of military construction that is going on here brings a significant amount of resources to the economy because it requires not only the companies that come here to do jobs aboard the air station to do these projects, but also the number of companies that get contracts subbed out to them from the big companies,” Huber said. “And that, in many cases, relies on folks here in the local economy.”

Personnel at the air station will look to surrounding vendors for materials and supplies needed for the construction site and daily operating expenses.

Local transportation, healthcare and other services necessary to live life will be taken advantage of by those constructing the hangars.

The future influx of people coming to Cherry Point has been cited as a reason for new residential developments in the area like The Hudson at Carolina Colours. It will add 240 apartment units to the rental market and is located minutes from Cherry Point.

As more developers recognize the coming housing market for singles and families alike, new neighborhoods may be planned.

The first F-35 hangar will be complete in 2022.

“Cherry Point doesn’t just affect New Bern, it impacts employment in Jones County, all the way to Carteret County, people in Pender and Sampson County work at Cherry Point,” Outlaw said. “I hope for it to have a continued strong presence. With many areas of America being environmentally sensitive, this base is a vital component of the security and defense of our nation.”

Though Craven County is a tourist destination and has found increasing success attracting new industry, the presence of MCAS Cherry Point still bolsters its economy and leads the area in employment.

Fleet Readiness Center East, an aviation repair facility started in 1943, is one of the top employers in the county with over 4,000 workers.

From partnerships with Craven Community College to provide specialized certifications to military volunteer presence, Outlaw said the relationship between New Bern and the base is one he is excited to see grow.

Outlaw, who meets quarterly with Huber and other mayors in the region, said when he moved to New Bern in 1968, his father, city manager at the time, instilled in him the importance of the base.

“Cherry Point works very hard to sustain and maintain and nurture the relationships that we have with the community, and so it’s interfacing  with all levels to include government, both in the city and county level and state level, but also just interface with the public,” Huber said.

He prides himself on the fact that Cherry Point does not just exist next to the community, but that it is a part of it.

“Never have I experienced a relationship where the community embraces the Marine Corps and our air station quite like it does here in eastern North Carolina,” Huber said.

A performance during the 2015 Cherry Point Air Show.

On Sept. 25 and 26, Cherry Point will welcome people onto its campus for the free 2021 Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show. The event lasts from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Both days will be filled with aerobatic performances, aircraft displays, military demonstrations and a grand finale by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

For more information, visit cherrypointairshow.com.

Huber looks forward to having members of the community visit the campus and see firsthand all of the things that make him proud to be the commanding officer of Cherry Point.

“We couldn’t do it without the local community, and I think they are proud of having this air station here and the things that we do to help keep Havelock and Craven County be the thriving places that they are and great places to live,” Huber said.