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View from 30,000 feet

Anytime you fly, it seems like a miracle when you find that it’s bright and sunny and beautiful if you just climb high enough to break through the cloud cover. It’s easy to lose sight of the aerospace manufacturer, the mechanic, the air traffic controller, the pilot and all the others who all gave you that moment to wonder at the light and the cloud formations.

There was a lot of potentially good news that came out recently about Scott Air Force Base, as well as a reminder of just how important it is to our community.

Scott was one of 10, but made the cut as one of four potential sites for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and 350 new jobs associated with it. The center will be important as we see shrinking defense budgets because its mission is to be efficient by combining common functions now handled separately at commands to ensure the lights stay on and the staff gets fed.

Scott was one of six, but now is one of four potential sites for the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency and its 3,000 jobs. The NGA makes secret maps and other data tools for the military, including giving Seal Team 6 some of the intelligence that allowed them to reproduce Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan to practice taking it down.

There was the Air Force announcement in June that Scott is getting two cyber security squadrons, with 300 jobs and $16 million in construction. In July Scott was named the top place to live for Air Force personnel.

Illinois leaders on Thursday for the first time took stock of the military’s impact on the state’s economy: defense accounts for 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and directly or indirectly creates 150,000 jobs. Here, Scott supports more than 40,000 jobs and generates $4 billion a year in economic activity.

Even with the dreary forecast in defense spending, we can afford an Annie moment of optimism. Just don’t forget that a whole lot of folks continuing to work really hard — from teachers giving us quality schools to government leaders promoting the region’s assets — make a bright view possible.

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