Leaders in the Fairbanks North Star Borough in Interior Alaska have their work cut out for them to prepare for the arrival of two squadrons of F-35A fighter jets at Eielson AFB, according to a newly released growth plan. The region will need new housing, schools, retail options and workforce training programs as the borough is projected to gain 2,741 non-military jobs. The city of North Pole is projected to gain 3,256 residents by 2022. Fueling a significant part of the growth will be the Air Force’s $500 million-plus investment in construction to accommodate the new mission.
The draft plan, supported by a grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment, recommends establishing a housing task force and investing in public services, reports the Daily News-Miner. Construction of some of the anticipated need for new housing, 974 units, already is under way. One pressing concern will be providing infant care, pre-school options and other early childhood development services, as the largest population increase will occur among young children. The report forecasts the influx of students will strain school budgets by 2025. Possible solutions include expanding high schools to include middle school grades and using portable classrooms.
“It’s been a year of a lot of listening and really strategizing and thinking with all of you as community members and with military families directly about what recommendations will not only benefit those incoming families, but also all of you that have lived here for decades that see this as an opportunity to improve the quality of life in your community,” planning consultant Shelly Wade told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce last week, reported Alaska Public Media.
Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric Fisher