At one time, North Island was home port to three aircraft carriers. Those days are coming back.
The Navy plans to send the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to a new home in San Diego in 2010. Its arrival will send ripples through all corners of the San Diego economy.
"It's wonderful economic news," said Ruben Barrales, president and chief executive of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The economic impact goes deep," Barrales said, spreading from big defense contractors to dry cleaners.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement saying he was "delighted" that the Navy chose San Diego for the carrier. The Navy's other options were Hawaii, Guam and two coastal towns in Washington state.
The Vinson will join the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan at Naval Air Station North Island.
The Navy estimates that a single carrier has an annual economic impact of $207 million. Crew salaries account for $203 million, while utility bills count for $4 million. The Vinson has a permanent crew of 3,000 people. When deployed with an air wing, that number grows to 5,500.
One business sure to benefit from the move is shipyards. In 2006, the Reagan and the Nimitz combined spent $61 million on repairs and upgrades, said Cmdr. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for the Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, based on North Island. The repair bill is not constant, Hanzlik added; it fluctuates year-to-year, depending on maintenance schedules.
Shipyard subcontractors will also benefit from the Vinson's arrival, said Stephen Frailey, vice president of San Diego-based Pacific Tugboat Service.
Pacific, which also has operations in Los Angeles, maintains the floating barriers around Navy ships. Frailey said he expects extra work with the Vinson in town, but he wouldn't go as far as to say his company would hire more employees. He said he would rather give existing employees more shifts and more overtime.
Defense contractors won't be the only ones that benefit. Sailors who come in with the Vinson will rent apartments and buy cars and groceries, Frailey said.
Overhaul In Virginia
The Navy announced March 30 that San Diego was the preferred new home for the Carl Vinson, which is now receiving an overhaul in a Virginia shipyard. During the work, the ship took on new fuel for its nuclear reactor.
The Navy is transferring the Vinson to the Pacific Fleet because it has decided to concentrate more of its forces in the Pacific.
Still to come is a supplemental environmental impact study on the move to San Diego. Work on the document will begin this month, said Hanzlik. Schwarzenegger's office pledged whatever technical assistance is necessary to complete the document.
A Pentagon statement about the Navy's plans for the Vinson said commanders chose San Diego because of its proximity to training areas, its existing infrastructure and its "family support facilities."
Civic leaders in the state of Washington had promoted bases in Bremerton and Everett as low-cost alternatives to San Diego, according to a report in the Kitsap Sun of Bremerton.
The Department of Defense directly spent $11.7 billion in the San Diego region in 2004, according to a recent report from the San Diego chamber. Barrales said the number grows to $18.3 billion if one accounts for economic activity around the bases.
San Diego is also expecting other new ships by 2009. They include four littoral combat ships and eight mine countermeasure ships. The command overseeing the mine countermeasure ships will also relocate to San Diego by 2009 with the closure of its current home, the Navy base in Ingleside, Texas.