By Quinn Gorham
Local leaders and lawmakers are hoping to nail down a sizable investment in Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing during this year’s legislative session.
The fighter wing was in the national spotlight over the weekend as they shot down an unidentified object over the Great Lakes.
Minnesota Lawmakers lauded the airmen for their role in the takedown.
“The fact that the 148th was tapped to help and to actually be the ones that took down the object over Lake Huron is pretty significant. It just goes to show that we need help all over the country,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Klobuchar commended the fighter wing for its role in protecting national security.
Meanwhile, St. Louis County leaders say the 148th is a big part of the local economy as well.
Last week, several of those leaders headed south to St. Paul to lobby state lawmakers regarding the region’s legislative priorities.
One of those priorities is a $25 million dollar investment in bonding money to revamp the fighter wing’s hangars, which they say are outdated.
“Getting them new hangars is really important to us and our economy, but also has the potential to set them up for continued success to make sure that the mission remains relevant here in the Northland,” said Dan Fanning, Vice President of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
Fanning says the Fighter Wing is one of the area’s top employers.
Local lawmakers sought funding last year as well, but since the divided legislature couldn’t pass a bonding bill, it was never heard on the floor.
This year, the push has bipartisan support at the state level.
“I think that’s the way it should work. The military and defense mechanisms that we have for the state of Minnesota should be completely bipartisan national security should come first,” said Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar (R- Fredenberg Township), one of the co-authors of the bonding project.
Zeleznikar is confident if a bonding bill is passed this year, this project will be one of the top priorities.
“If there’s going to be bonding done, this is definitely one that checks all the boxes of an applicable need for all of us, and I think this is the year it happens,” she said.