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Governor says Alpena has critical role in drone project

December 19, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

There are still a lot of questions surrounding the unmanned aircraft project in Alpena and what type of relationship there is between the state of Michigan and Alpena County. One thing is certain however, in order for the state or the county to be granted one of the federal government's Center of Excellence designation for the testing and research of drones, both sides are going to have to work closely together in order to separate the local project from proposals from other areas of the country.

On Wednesday Gov. Rick Snyder spoke to The News about the project and the role Alpena, the state and a newly formed committee need to play in order to make unmanned aircrafts and the jobs that come with them a reality for both.

The committee, which consists of Alpena County Commissioners Tom Mullaney and Cam Habermehl, a representative from the Michigan Economic Development Commission, a person from the University of Michigan and a representative from the Detroit airport, will be in charge of putting the proposal to the federal government in place. Snyder said Alpena County has set the stage and been instrumental in the process so far and in order to be successful, it needs to continue to be.

"Alpena has a critical role in all of this and has been a great leader in this from the beginning. One of Alpena's county commissioners is the chairman of the committee that was formed for the project. Alpena needs to continue to be a leader," Snyder said. "I want Alpena to keep up the good work it has been doing and I think we have what it takes to put together a winning formula. I hope we win one of the designations and am very supportive of the project and the Alpena community."

Snyder said Alpena and Michigan have several things that could help the federal government to decide to choose them to be leaders in drone aircrafts. He said we have all four seasons, and a great deal of restricted airspace helps the cause. He said the proximity of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center to Alpena County Regional Airport also is important.

"I'm sure they are going to want to test the aircrafts in winter weather as well as in warm and we can offer them that. There is also a lot of airspace to do it in," Snyder said. "We hope this will bring jobs to Alpena and this could be a source of growth for years. It would be great for Alpena to lead the way in science and research. Alpena has some very exciting things going on right now with the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary, the unmanned aircraft project and the boat tours. It is very exciting and it has my full support."

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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