A mysterious company’s massive land grab near a major US air force base in California has concerned US lawmakers and federal agencies, raising fears that the foreign investor may be investing in ways that could pose a threat to US national security.
Flannery Associates, a limited-liability corporation registered in Delaware, has purchased around 52,000 acres of mostly farmland near Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco.
The company has become the largest landowner in the county over the past five years, and its purchases have caught the attention of the federal government. In response, the US Agriculture Department requested information on the company’s ownership structure, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Adding to fears over the purchases, The Journal reported that at least 20 parcels of land bought by Flannery lie within miles of the air force base, which is home to the largest wing of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. The base is also used to host sensitive drone technology.
In response, a lawyer for Flannery told the Journal that the company is controlled by US nationals and that 97% of the capital invested in Flannery comes from American investors, with the remaining 3% coming from British and Irish sources.
Yet, last month, the company sent a formal response letter to the Agriculture Department provided to The Post by Flannery lawyer Richard Melnyk, affirming that “no foreign person…or group of foreign persons holds any significant interest or substantial control…over Flannery, either now or at the time of any land purchase made by Flannery.”
As this was not enough for lawmakers, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness panel, said that “The fact that they’re buying land purposefully right up to the fence at Travis raises significant questions.”
The Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Office has also been looking into the purchases from Flannery, but, according to the Journal, has yet to uncover the identities behind the company.
On top of this, both local and county officials have also failed to attain satisfactory answers about the company’s motives, with Solano County Administrator, Bill Emlen saying they are still in the dark, while county supervisor, Mitch Mashburn, added that ”I don’t see where that land can turn a profit to make it worth almost a billion dollars in investment.”
A spokesperson for the air force base confirmed to the Journal that they are “aware of the multiple land purchases near the base and are actively working internally and externally with other agencies,” yet it is as yet uncertain whether their investigations will help clear up the mystery surrounding Flannery Associates and its motivations.