By Congressman Michael Turner
As a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will receive $230 million in federal funding and gain over 1,000 new jobs. Though this investment of personnel and capital represent a tremendous growth opportunity, the addition of 1,000 new jobs to the region requires extensive planning and cooperation. For that reason, I recently hosted the 1,000 Jobs Roundtable where elected officials and business leaders discussed the upcoming job surge with Air Force personnel and began the process of planning and identifying possible opportunities for cooperation.
The 1,000 Jobs Roundtable was held at Sinclair Community College and replicated a Congressional Hearing. Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge and Greene County Commissioner Ralph Harper co-chaired the Roundtable with me. Also attending the Roundtable were Montgomery County Commissioners Dan Foley and Debbie Lieberman and Greene County Commissioners Rick Perales and Alan Anderson.
Witnesses were invited to speak as part of one of three different panels. The first panel consisted of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base personnel who lead off with an overview of the incoming missions and opportunities. Panel two was made up of government economic development officials who presented a discussion of the infrastructure needs and challenges from the employment and population increase. The third panel included professionals in the fields of health care and academia who discussed employment opportunities, business recruitment, necessary academic focus for future employment, and opportunities for partnership.
During the first panel, Air Force personnel emphasized the importance of regional cooperation and teamwork. They also stressed the significance of quality of life issues, such as education and the abundance of shopping and entertainment venues, and the role they would play in attracting and keeping quality employees. According to the Air Force personnel, as many as two-thirds of the employees needed to fill the jobs coming to the area are likely to have either Master’s degrees or Phd’s. It is also very likely that the spouses of these employees would have a great deal to offer to the community.
The second panel of experts in the field of economic development outlined the infrastructure changes that our community must make to support all of our new residents. Several highway sites around the base were selected as areas that could need improvement. They also stated that there are several areas around the base are ready for redevelopment and could house the incoming industries.
The final panel of the day included professionals from the health care and academic sectors in our community. Wright-Patterson will add an Air Force School of Medicine, the Air Force Institute of Operational Health, and the Naval Aeromedical Research Laboratory. Upon their completion, most Air Force medical research on the effects of flight will be conducted at Wright-Patterson. According to the witnesses, networking and growth opportunities for both the local medical industry and academia have already begun.
When the BRAC process began, our community knew how important Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was to our region and to our men and women in uniform. The gains we have made because of BRAC will be critical to Southwest Ohio in this competitive and fast changing economy. I am proud to have worked together with leaders in our community at the 1,000 Jobs Roundtable to prepare for the tremendous opportunity that awaits us.
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