From the Print

Possible BRAC jobs focus of meeting

Economic development for Greene County and Yellow Springs was the focus of a presentation given by the Dayton Development Coalition at Antioch University McGregor on Friday morning, March 14. About 100 local and county residents, leaders and men in dark suits attended the meeting, which featured a briefing about the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan for Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the anticipated 1,200 jobs and $3.73 billion in economic impact the consolidation effort is expected to bring to the Miami Valley region.

While a small group of protesters stood outside the building to oppose partnering with the military for economic gains, local participant Carol Gasho, for one, teemed with ideas after the meeting about how Yellow Springs could promote itself to both businesses and residents thinking of establishing in the area. Another local participant, Christine Roberts, took the different but no less enthusiastic view that while the base would likely bring economic opportunities to the area, she preferred to focus on more peaceful businesses whose aim was to solve global problems. And while no mention of Antioch College was made during the presentation, participant Sam Eckenrode noted afterward that while the base has a big economic influence, she hoped that Yellow Springs would also be able to maintain the cultural and intellectual diversity the college has always provided.

Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of McGregor and a board member of the Dayton Development Coalition, began the morning with introductions addressing an audience that included State Senator Steve Austria and Greene County Commissioners Ralph Harper, Alan Anderson and Rick Perales. JP Nauseef, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, followed with a summary of the region’s challenge to override the loss of industry and jobs and begin to diversify the business base and fill the BRAC’s need for specialists in the fields of aerospace research, information technology, advanced math and manufacturing, and healthcare and human sciences.

“Our job at the Dayton Development Coalition is to balance the public and private needs so that we can beat the competitors in other regions and states for the jobs we know we can provide a workforce for,” Nauseef said. “Our whole region and community will benefit from that.”

BRAC’s impact

According to BRAC director Jacque Fisher, as a result of consolidating several Air Force missions in other parts of the country and bringing them to this area, the BRAC is expected to bring approximately 1,200 new government positions to the base. Though during previous BRACs, less than 30 percent of available jobs were filled by base employees who chose to relocate, Fisher said that most of these 1,200 jobs will need to be filled by new hires. Wright Patt is the largest single-site employer in Ohio, employing 26,000 people, 52 percent of which are civilian jobs, 29 percent military and 19 percent contractors, she said.

This BRAC is also expected to generate $3.73 billion for the region, including over $1.25 billion in payroll revenue, more than $1.35 billion in expenditures and $750 million in indirect job creation. Though the Air Force used the 19-county region surrounding the base for its calculations, Fisher said 92 percent of the total projected economic impact is expected to benefit the quad county region that is Greene, Montgomery, Clark and Miami counties.

Much of the BRAC effort is going toward bringing Air Force Research Laboratory jobs to Wright Patt from the Brooks base in San Antonio, Texas and Williams Base in Mesa, Ariz., particularly from the human effectiveness mission, Fisher said. A portion of the sensors directorate from bases at Rome, N.Y. and Hanscom AFB in Bedford, Mass., are also relocating here, as well as the Aeronautical Systems Center mission designing major weapons systems, aircraft support and military uniforms, night vision goggles and other safety gear.

In all, the BRAC is planning $332 million in military construction on base, the largest construction project at Wright Patt since WWII, according to Fisher. The largest project will be constructing a new building to house the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the Air Force Institute of Operational Health, the Naval Aeromedical Research Lab and the missions from Brooks and Mesa. The facilities plan also calls for renovating two historic buildings on base plus the tower, adding religious education and dorm facilities to the base, and relocating gateways.

To meet its needs, the base will be looking for lots of what Fisher called “mad scientists” and researchers for the sensors mission. Specialists in the computer programming, business and finance, and human systems management will also be needed, as well as medical instructors, students and researchers for the aerospace wing.

To support this transition off the base, according to Fisher, there will be a high demand for auxiliary goods and services, such as hotel accommodations, restaurants, transportation businesses and dry cleaners, to name a few. The base also expects to recruit promising graduate students from area universities and send its workers to area schools for continuing education and additional training, she said.

The move, which began in 2007, is expected to be completed by September 2011, Fisher said. This is the fifth BRAC for the entire Air Force whose manpower has been reduced by 46 percent since 1989.

Gains for the village?

That Friday’s presentation took place in the Antioch University McGregor building, the anchor for Yellow Springs’ development park, the Center for Business and Education, was symbolic. Since Yellow Springs Community Resources purchased the 45-acre parcel in 2004 with a $300,000 loan from the Village and an $100,000 grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, YSCR has worked to make the area ready for light manufacturing, clean businesses and research offices, YSCR members have said in past statements.

Toward that end, YSCR secured over $1 million in grants from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Department of Transportation for infrastructure for the park. And according to Gasho, who is a member of YSCR, water, sewer and utility infrastructure for the business park is expected to be installed sometime this fall, and the roads will hopefully be built in the spring 2009, she said in an interview Friday.

From Gasho’s personal perspective, Yellow Springs needs to be aggressive and act quickly in order to engage with the needs of the BRAC, whose missions are expected to move in early 2010, she said. In partnership with regional leaders, Yellow Springs could market itself to the communities, businesses and residents around the country who are likely to relocate here and “need to know the story of Yellow Springs,” she said.

“I would love to think that some of those ‘mad scientists’ would look at Yellow Springs and say, ‘this is the place I’d like to live,’” she said. “We’ve got great schools, it’s a great place to raise kids, and we’re a straight shot to the base.”

While McGregor was recognized at Friday’s presentation as a potential training institute for relocated personnel and their spouses, several local participants noted there was no acknowledgment of Antioch College as a potential partner in the region. According to Eckenrode, while Wright Patt is undeniably a “huge economic force in our region,” its influence has traditionally been balanced by the college.

“There’s a historic beauty of juxtaposition between the base and the college — a good, healthy and dramatic challenging of each other,” she said. “It’s the cultural counterpoint that Yellow Springs and Antioch College have always provided for the region that I don’t want to get lost,” she said.

Roberts too had considered Antioch College to be the village’s greatest single asset, but that over the years it had built such an “anti-business, anti-money stand” it became less effective, less relevant, she said. Though the college still struggles, she is still focused on her ideas (inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus) to use business as a tool to solve problems in the world. And while Roberts said she would embrace high-paying BRAC businesses and jobs that came to Yellow Springs, she feels that the world also has a need for businesses that work directly to create peace and social justice, and that’s where she would choose to put her energy.

All morning the group of protestors stood quietly outside the McGregor building, holding signs against building Yellow Springs on the foundation of a war economy. Bill Houston said that while he welcomed base employees to Yellow Springs, he opposed partnering directly with the base to support the military-industrial complex.

“I prefer to see Yellow Springs develop its economy along more peaceful lines than the military,” he said.

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