SALT LAKE CITY -- The Northern Utah Chamber Coalition has asked legislators to seriously consider allocating money to promote Hill Air Force Base.
Members of four chambers of commerce -- Davis, Ogden-Weber, Box Elder and Cache -- met with Top of Utah legislators early Monday morning to discuss their priorities concerning public policy and government funding.
At the top of the list is funding for the Utah Defense Alliance, a nonprofit organization that has played a key role in keeping the base open during previous Base Realignment and Closure actions.
The Department of Defense in January announced plans to cut spending, which could include closing military bases.
"This is not the time to panic but the time to prepare," Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told chamber members.
Tage Flint, UDA president, said the base is the state's largest employer and "we need to do all we can" to promote the base at the national level.
"This is a critical time, and we need to be able to tell the story of Hill Air Force Base and the impact it has on the national level, as well as the state," he said.
After the meeting, local officials said that even though the Air Force's force structure changes appear not to impact Hill, they're not letting down their guard when it comes to BRAC.
Flint said the reorganization is different from the proposed BRAC actions because the reorganization is happening now, while BRAC is something that may happen in the future.
Rick Mayfield, executive director of the Military Installation Development Authority, said getting funding for UDA this session needs to be a top priority for the state as a whole.
Two former commanders of Hill -- retired Air Force Gens. Pat Condon and Kevin Sullivan -- have already volunteered and donated their time to testify at Senate meetings concerning any proposed realignment of jobs at the base, Mayfield said.
Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement Thursday supporting a proposal by legislators to give the UDA $500,000 so Utah is represented during future base closure processes.
Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said the state needs to rally around the base because of what it contributes to the state and community.
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson said Utah can hold its own when it comes to the base in open meetings, because of the "quality of our people, our education and our work force," even though the meetings "may be uncomfortable."
Gibson said, though, that cuts made by the Pentagon "under the covers, without the light of day" are troublesome.