Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow has hired lobbyists to work on the state and federal level to support the base and the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair facility.
Marc Finlayson, managing consultant for ACT, said the organization’s Board of Directors voted unanimously on two lobbying contracts that start on Sept. 1.
The federal lobbying contract went to three firms, Ward and Smith in New Bern, The Franklin Partnership, and Robison International. Jointly, the three firms will be paid $14,000 per month.
At the state level, Ward and Smith, which has had a long relationship with ACT, was retained for $12,000 per month.
“I think it’s very positive,” said Jimmy Sanders, ACT’s vice chairman. “We have had a relationship with these folks over the years and have a lot of confidence in the team, and I think we’re going to see a lot of positive things come from it.”
Finlayson said a committee worked for more than a month to choose the firms. Five proposals were reviewed.
“The three that the committee chose to interview had the most Cherry Point experience,” Finlayson said. “The whole thing took the better part of a month and every proposal was read very thoroughly. Everyone gave it their best shot.”
In the past, lobbying efforts in support of Cherry Point had been divided among ACT, Craven County’s Military Support Coalition and the city of Havelock’s lobbyist, The Franklin Partnership, but the three entities didn’t always present a united front.
With ACT taking the lead role, Finlayson said the lobbying efforts would be more effective.
“We can bring that consolidated voice and unified effort on behalf of Cherry Point,” he said. “We have all the tools to be successful that way.”
ACT members and others have expressed a desire to protect Cherry Point from impact if a Base Realignment and Closure Commission is established. The Marine base and FRC East have been threatened by BRACs in the past. Military leaders have said they want a BRAC soon.
Finlayson said part of the federal lobbying effort would be to work with military leaders to see how Cherry Point can improve its standing compared to other bases in the country.
“We need to be as well positioned as possible,” Finlayson said. “We want to make sure that we are completely aligned with what’s happening in the Pentagon.”
Federal lobbying efforts will also focus on funding base security enhancements that will be necessary before F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons are based at Cherry Point. Another effort will be funds for a lift fan test facility for the F-35 at FRC East, as well as working long range toward funds for large military projects that include hangars for the F-35 squadrons, the first of which is expected to arrive at Cherry Point in 2021 or 2022.
State lobbying will focus on working with the General Assembly on rules and regulations on tall structures, specifically windmills in the vicinity of Cherry Point, as well as nearby bomb ranges and auxiliary air fields. ACT will also be the liaison to the N.C. Military Affairs Commission.
“I think that ACT has done a lot over the last couple of years to reorganize and create a strategy of how to move forward for the best interests of the entire region,” said board member Will Lewis, who is also mayor of Havelock. “We have an ACT board that is engaged and ready to go to work to protect Cherry Point, FRC East and all of the tenets here. This is a huge step.”
Finlayson said the lobbyists at both levels would seek to bring more work to Cherry Point, which contributed more than $2.1 billion to the region’s economy in 2013.
“We need to take on more missions and assets,” Finlayson said. “We want to see FRC and Cherry Point grow ideally.”