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Blackwater leasing new facility on West Coast Print
 By Louis Hansen - The Virginian-Pilot - April 23, 2008

Blackwater is making a small shift in its West Coast operations.

The move comes a few weeks after the company abandoned a plan to build a training facility in Potrero, Calif., outside San Diego in the face of heavy opposition. This latest step, company Vice President Brian Bonfiglio said, " is nothing more than an exercise in geography."

The company leased a 60,000-square-foot warehouse earlier this year in a San Diego industrial park, blocks from the Mexico border. The move is unrelated to the Potrero plan, Bonfiglio said.

The new site will replace a smaller facility used by Blackwater a few miles away, Bonfiglio said. Instructors will train sailors on ship security, identifying threats and responding to attacks.

It's an extension of a contract the Navy awarded Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater in 2002, Bonfiglio said. The curriculum came in reaction to the fatal attack on the destroyer Cole.

Raymond Lutz, a community activist in San Diego, drove out to the site after hearing rumors that Blackwater might be establishing a new facility there.

"We're very much on the edge about Blackwater here," Lutz said.

Lutz fought Blackwater's plan for the Potrero campus, which eventually led to the recall of several of the rural community's elected leaders. The campus would have established a West Coast facility for Blackwater to provide training now done at its Moyock headquarters. The company withdrew its plan in March.

Lutz said he was concerned that the new facility could raise environmental issues because it includes a shooting range. He also wondered if the company was winning the correct permits from the city. "I mean, you have to get a license to braid hair," Lutz said.

Bonfiglio said Blackwater applied to the city for the required permits in February and they were approved a month later. Muzzle training accounts for only three days of a three-week training course, he said. The company has continued to receive city inspections and permits for ongoing construction.

"We didn't hide it," he said. "It's never been a secret."

The company expects to hire between 10 and 12 employees and open in early summer.
 
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