Road closure would expand job opportunities
Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2018
I’m Jason Crager, site director of Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Operations. You likely know that Lockheed Martin has petitioned Pike County Commissioners to vacate a 2.7-mile stretch of County Road 7717 that runs along the southern border of our property. Our reasoning is simple: we have exhausted our ability to expand and grow our business. We are currently completing construction of three buildings and after that, as currently situated, we can’t build any more.
That severely inhibits our opportunity to grow and our ability to hire more workers. There are a handful of new business proposals for which we would like to compete for which, if we are successful, would enable us to hire 150-200 workers and construct new facilities.
The U.S. government requires us to maintain at least 1,250 feet between production buildings and our property line, transmission lines and, you guessed it, public roads. Without control of this road, we will no longer be considered for future work, which limits good jobs and new construction opportunities.
The reason we are in this position is a good one. We have a tremendous track record in obtaining this work in our great state of Alabama. And while we can’t guarantee that would immediately happen if granted this stretch of road, the fact remains we won’t have that chance otherwise. When you figure we’ve maxed out our construction capacity on 3,863 acres in less than 25 years, I’d say our track record speaks for itself.
The prospect of hiring 150 – 200 new workers is significant. Pike County Operations currently employs more than 450 hardworking women and men and is one of the largest employers in the county. These are folks who are putting down roots and buying homes. And regardless of whether that’s in Pike County or elsewhere, they’re still spending money in restaurants and putting gas in their cars and are people who give back to the community.
I, and the people who work here, take pride in being members of our community. As such, throughout this process, we have worked with everyone to minimize the potential impact closing a section of County Road 7717 might have on the public.
Despite rumors to the contrary, we did not consider establishing a new employee entrance gate. This was a concern for some due to the increased vehicle traffic that it would create. We’ll continue to use the employee entrance gate on County Road 37 regardless of the commission’s decision. We would construct access gates along the road based on the vote but not in front of anyone’s house, for instance.
A couple of months ago, the Meeksville Volunteer Fire Department expressed concern that a lack of access to County Road 7717 would severely delay response times. We reached out to the Meeksville Fire Department and came to an agreement to allow first responders to pass through our gates in emergencies.
This vote comes down to supporting our ability to bring well-paying, long-term jobs to Pike County. And we’re not just talking about jobs; we’re talking about careers as we offer countless growth opportunities for citizens and their families.
We love what we do, who we do it for and where we do it. We hope the county commissioners vote to vacate this stretch of road so that we can continue our mission and support the community you and I call home.
Site Director, Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations