The puns were burning the plains in the Kansas City press Friday: “Kansas City’s effort to land a lucrative Federal Aviation Administration training center in the historic Lyric Theatre building crashed Friday when a Florida congressman blocked a plan to move the center out of his district for the foreseeable future,” wrote the Kansas City Star (Ernest Hemingway’s old paper). “A Florida congressman said Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration’s attempts to relocate one of its training facilities to Kansas City’s Lyric Theatre have stalled,” wrote the more hopeful Kansas City Business Journal–which broke the story of Kansas City’s courtship of the facility last November.
Earlier in the day, John Mica, the Republican congressman clocking his last seven months as Flagler County’s representative (he’s running in a different district this year), issued the following statement: “The FAA’s training facility will remain in Palm Coast for the foreseeable future, and due to language included in the new FAA law I introduced in the House, Palm Coast will always have a fair shot at future contracts. In addition, FAA officials informed us this morning that the agency will continue to operate the facility in Palm Coast while officials reconsider their training needs and budgetary realities.”
The facility in question is the FAA Center for Management and Executive Leadership, a revolving door of trainees that brings hundreds of people through town, though most stay at the facility itself (“Your linens and towels, as well as housekeeping services, are provided on a daily basis,” an FAA brochure informs). The facility also issues its own meal tickets for use at its Horizon Cafe.
The FAA was considering moving the facility without offering Palm Coast the opportunity to compete to retain the training contract, a release from Mica’s office read. With the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the FAA is abandoning its effort to move the facility in the near future. As agency officials reevaluate the training needs and budgetary constraints, they will be required to consider all appropriate bidders.
“This paves the way for Palm Coast to fairly compete against other locations the FAA might consider” Mica added. “Given the ideal location of the facility and professionalism of the employees at Palm Coast, I am confident Palm Coast will have the edge in any future bids.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat, who’s also seeking reelection, added a plug of his own: “These days any news about keeping jobs is welcome news,” he said. “Hopefully, the facility will stay in Palm Coast.”
Palm Coast’s preservation (for now) is Kansas City’s loss: the city’s downtown is hurting for business and jobs. It’s also ironic: While politicians in Kansas City and Palm Coast, or Florida, Mica included, compulsively criticize “big government” to curry favor with voters, they did not hesitate to pull all the stops to lure or preserve government jobs that they very well might have happily derided had they been in a different state. The training center has between 80 and 100 jobs on the federal payroll.