Former Air Base ID'd for Boeing Consideration

May 21, 2003
Posted at: 2:00 p.m. CDT

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. -- Boeing Corporation will be offered three sites in Arkansas, including one in Mississippi County, as possible locations for a major new airplane plant. That news comes from the state's economic development chief.

The aviation company has proposed building a new midsized jetliner, now known as the 7-E-7. The plane would carry up to 250 passengers and use 15 to 20 percent less fuel per passenger than competing aircraft.

Mississippi County has over 3,000 acres of land, and a two-mile airstrip, to offer the aircraft industry giant that could possibly bring over 1,000 new jobs to the Arkansas Delta.

The former Eaker Air Force Base is now the Arkansas Aeroplex, and it may a field of dreams for local residents hoping to become the new home to Boeing. Empty hangars that were once filled with planes and offices in 1992 now stand waiting for some company to use them.

"Obviously, we would be interested in an air-related industry because of this two mile run-way and all these hangars," said Blytheville Mayor Barrett Harrison.

Local officials say that after ten years of putting deals on the table that just didn't make it through, they've gone through a lot of growing pains. But, they say they've done what it takes to bring economic incentive to the table, including raising taxes three times.

State Economic Development director Pickens says the state is offering sites in the state's northwest, in northeast Arkansas, and central Arkansas.

The site in northeast Arkansas may be the former Eaker Air Force Base outside Blytheville, which was closed in 1991 and turned over to local officials for development. Pickens acknowledged the Eaker site may be one under consideration for offering to Boeing, but he declined to name any of the three sites.

Boeing says proposals are due by June 20th, and a decision is expected by the end of the year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.