SPRINGFIELD, IL: Anxious to preserve a major US military base within its borders, Illinois has hired Fleishman-Hillard for a $180,000, one-year public-affairs and government-relations assignment. Fleishman's St. Louis and Washington, DC, offices will work to ensure that Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois does not go on a list of bases to be closed that will be presented to Congress late next year.
Scott Air Force Base generates more than $1.5 billion annually for Illinois' economy, employing 50,000 people. It's the major military facility in Illinois. Including Scott, bases in the state generate $2.5 billion annually and employ 70,000.
Fleishman won the job based on its government-affairs expertise and because its St. Louis office is familiar with regional issues at Scott, said Andrew Ross, communications director for an Illinois economic-development program called Opportunity Returns. Scott is southeast of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.
Federal base closings are recommended to Congress by an independent commission. The commission will make recommendations in September 2005, Ross said.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) decided to hire a PR firm now as a preemptive measure, Ross said. "What the governor wants to make sure of is that we're doing everything possible to keep Scott Air Force Base open," he explained. "The governor knows that the time to take action is right now. The key is to make the most compelling case as early as possible."