Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam said Thursday that he wrote a letter in support of the Florida National Guard’s efforts to bring the F-35 Lightning II to Jacksonville.
“For 70 years, the 125th Fighter Wing has served Florida and our country well. With Jacksonville’s unparalleled airspace and infrastructure, no other place in the nation is better suited for a new squadron of F-35 fighters,” Putnam wrote in the letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“As you continue to evaluate bases for the F-35, I am confident that Jacksonville will continue to rise above the rest and if the past is prologue, then the F-35 will prove to be a success in the hands of the 125th,” he added.
Jacksonville is one of a handful of finalists to house the squadron alongside bases in Idaho, Wisconsin, Alabama in Michigan, and Florida politicians have been lobbying hard to bring the fifth generation fighter to the Sunshine State.
Putnam’s plea joins the entire Florida Congressional Delegation, who banded together in May to ask Wilson to base the new jets out of Jax. During her tenure as a congresswoman, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham also urged officials to pick Jacksonville.
State senators, spearheaded by Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson, also passed a resolution in March supporting the Florida Air National Guard’s mission to bring the squadron to Jacksonville.
The economic impact of bringing the Lockheed Martin jet to the First Coast is estimated to be at least $100 million, and if Jacksonville is picked it could help stave off job losses when the military eventually phases out the F-15 Eagles currently based out of Jacksonville International Airport.
Jacksonville currently has about 1,000 full-time active air members and officials say adding the F-35 would bring around 200 more jobs to the area.