Chamber enlists restaurants in push to land F-35s in Beaufort

Residents can log their support for basing F-35 Strike Fighter jets at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on laptop computers made available to the public on Veterans Day at two restaurants.

The public comment period ends later this month regarding the Department of the Navy's final decision on dividing squadrons between Beaufort and the air station in Cherry Point, N.C.

The Beaufort County Military Enhancement Committee, working with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, will make computers available from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Office at 2121 Boundary St. in Beaufort Town Center and the Old Coffee Haus at 614 Paris Ave. in Port Royal, according to a news release.

The chamber also started a Facebook page, in which those who log comments are eligible for weekly drawings of $50 in gift certificates from local businesses.

The chamber supports the Department of the Navy's preferred alternative to base three regular and two training F-35 squadrons in Beaufort. The five squadrons would mean more than $300 million in construction at the air station and add 200 high-paying civilian jobs to the area, chamber president Carlotta Ungaro said in the release.

Both restaurants will offer discounts to patrons who participate in the online rally. The timing is designed to celebrate Veterans Day and the Marine Corps' 235th birthday, the release said.

"Posting comments online is the easiest and most efficient way for people to share their thoughts and support for this critical component of Beaufort County's economy and culture," Lt. Gen. Garry Parks, Military Enhancement Committee chairman, said in the release.

The Defense Department's environmental impact statement and comment sections are available until Nov. 22 at www.usmcjsfeast.com/Comments.aspx.

Background information about the new stealth strike fighters and their impact on Beaufort can be found at www.f35beaufort.com, which is maintained by the Military Enhancement Committee.

The group Best for Beaufort opposes the Navy's preferred option and encourages like-minded residents to submit their comments at www.usmcjsfeast.com, as well. Best for Beaufort's website is www.best4beaufort.com.