The fact that Camp Ravenna, the Ohio Army National Guard site located at the former Ravenna Arsenal, is even under consideration as a possible location for a ballistic missile interceptor base is exciting news.
While there are many uncertainties to be resolved -- not the least of which is the fact that the Department of Defense hasn't yet decided to go forward with such a facility -- the potential for a major economic development boost for Portage County is a wonderful prospect. Should the project being talked about materialize, it stands to dwarf the creation of the arsenal nearly 80 years ago as the largest single investment in the county.
Interceptors are a ground-based missile system designed to intercept ballistic missiles. There are now only two such sites in the United States. If a third is built, it could cost anywhere from $1 billion to as much as $5 billion, according to published reports.
At this point, Camp Ravenna is one of five sites being considered as a future location for an interceptor deployment site. The others are located in Maine, Vermont, Michigan and New York. That's a short list by any count, one that will be narrowed to two or three sites in a long-term process tied to a number of factors.
The Missile Defense System will gather information about the Portage County site, including an on-site visit, before deciding whether it will remain under consideration. Advancing to the next round would mean environmental studies that could take an additional 18 to 24 months.
The final selection, of course, would be contingent on Congress approving funding for the site. There is no money in the Pentagon budget for it now.
Camp Ravenna is located in eastern Portage County, two miles east of the city of Ravenna. The site became the Ravenna Arsenal, a munitions facility, during World War II and at its height employed 15,000 workers.
If it eventually is chosen for the missile interceptor base, Portage County stands to benefit from the creation of construction jobs as well as those who would be employed by a major military installation. That would be a tremendous economic boost.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, whose office announced the news about the short list, said that the missile base "would be a great opportunity for Camp Ravenna and the State of Ohio to benefit from Department of Defense investments leading to increased employment in both the construction phase and sustaining operational employment." The news from the Pentagon also was hailed by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. Should Camp Ravenna make the initial cut, it appears that the project will have solid bipartisan support from our delegation in Congress.
We aren't familiar with the pros and cons of the other potential sites, but believe Camp Ravenna brings to the table a number of assets. The facility has been in federal hands for nearly 75 years; it remains relatively undeveloped and largely isolated from signigficant population centers; whatever environmental concerns may be involved have been largely identified during its transformation from the largely abandoned arsenal into the National Guard training site; and there is likely to be no significant local opposition to its development as a military installation.
We realize there many hurdles -- many "ifs" to be resolved -- in order for this plan to be realized. Still, it's exciting news. We hope Camp Ravenna remains on the short list as it becomes shorter and eventually narrows to the final choice.