Panhandle project shows promise, she says during P.C. visit
News Herald - October 19, 2011, By Felicia Kitzmiller, News Herald Writer
PANAMA CITY — Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is lobbying hard to merge two of her primary responsibilities in state affairs — jobs and military relations — and the Panhandle is her testing ground.
Carroll met Wednesday with Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, to discuss Operation Green Leaf, an electronic vehicle program that’s military application is being tested at Hurlburt Field. On her way to the demonstration, Carroll stopped at The News Herald to talk about the technology and her efforts to create jobs and protect military installations in Florida.
Operation Green Leaf involves a pad that is able to wirelessly charge electronic cars and eliminate the need for cumbersome wiring. It is being produced by LHS Companies in Escambia County.
“I’m really excited. … I’ve seen the prototype and … it looks lightweight, it can be as sporty as a sports car and as substantial as a small bus,” she said.
The technology has been used at Hurlburt since April for transport of people and objects, said Phil Gonzalez, LHS Cos. COO and CFO.
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Carroll said she met with Yonkers and discussed the military’s initiative to invest in green energy and reduce fuel consumption. Knowing of Hurlburt’s test and the federal dollars allocated for reducing energy use in the military, Carroll said she persuaded the assistant secretary to come to Florida and see if the technology could have a wider application to fulfill the needs of military installations nationwide.
“If we’re going to spend the money, let’s spend it on a product that’s good and one that’s going to help us here,” she said.
The possible expansion of military use for the wireless pad is exciting, Gonzalez said. The primary benefits of the technology are its safety, recharging speed and human convenience. It’s also economical, he said. Tax incentives allow the car to be offered on a five-year loan program with a negative interest rate that reduces the price of the vehicle by about $17,000. Hurlburt is currently using two-seat cars, but four-seat models will be delivered next month, Gonzalez said. Any electronic car can be used with the wireless pad.
This kind of initiative, connecting abilities with needs and vice-versa, is what Carroll said she sees as her role in job creation and military affairs. She attempts to use influence and contacts to address problems on a local, state, national and sometimes international arena.
For example, she said, there are already discussions in Florida about the 2015 Base Realignment and Closure, when the U.S. military will consider the status of its bases.
“I don’t have to tell you how important the bases are to our economy in this area,” she said. “… We can’t start thinking about this in 2014. If we don’t have a unified mission and direction for our bases, they are going to see that as a negative and look at shutting down our bases.”
To that end, Carroll said she visits numerous military installations around the state and seeks to solve any issues or conflicts they may be encountering, and she is working with local governments to incorporate military needs into their comprehensive plans. For instance, she said she is working to obtain Deepwater Horizon oil spill reparations money for land acquisition near Eglin Air Force Base to prevent encroachment.
Local governments and military installations working together will be even more important in the future, she said, and Bay County already has taken steps to ensure continued cooperation with its military installations, especially Naval Support Activity Panama City. As far as coordination with the base, county staff recently completed a joint land use study and has enacted several new rules to prevent interference with the base’s operations.
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