Wednesday, April 05, 2006

TOP STORY >> Economic impact of air base at $600M

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base’s economic impact on the local economy increased $20 million from $580 million in 2004 to $600 million in 2005, most of which comes from military members living in surrounding communities.

According to Little Rock Air Force Base’s 2005 fiscal year economic impact analysis, the base’s 5,919 active duty personnel collect $274 million in pay, much of which is spent in surrounding cities of Sher-wood, Jacksonville, Cabot and Beebe for rent and housing. Only 483 airmen live on base while much of housing is being remodeled.

“In the communities around the base, airmen have been able to find bigger, modern homes for their families and later sell at a profit when they move to another base,” said Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim.

The older homes on base are either being demolished or renovated as part of a $500 million housing contract awarded to American Eagle Communities. By 2012, American Eagle Communities plans to renovate 732 existing homes and build 648 new homes to make living on the base more appealing to military families.

“We’re always pleased to get the report and verify what we already know–that the base is important to the entire state of Arkansas and the city of Jacksonville,” Swaim said. “Economic impact isn’t the only thing the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base do for us. They protect our freedoms on a daily basis and that’s what’s really important,” Swaim said.

“While the majority of people think it’s just Jacksonville that gets that economic impact, it stretches all the way from Little Rock to Beebe and all the points in between,” said Larry T. Wilson, past president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council. Wilson is also the president and chief executive officer of Jackson-ville-based First Arkansas Bank and Trust.

The 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, a tenant unit at the base, is responsible for $50.7 million of the base’s total economic impact for 2005.

“We have Guardsmen from 121 cities across the state,” said Tech. Sgt. Bob Oldham, spokesman for the 189th Airlift Wing. “The pay those airmen get is taken back to their hometowns too.”

In 2005, Little Rock Air Force Base bought $19 million in services and $80 million in materials, equipment and supplies, which created 3,031 indirect jobs worth $109 million to local economies, $5 million more than 2004. The 2004 economic impact analysis showed Little Rock Air Force Base spent $21 million in services and $78.6 million in materials, equipment and supplies, which created about the same amount of indirect jobs 3,068 worth $104 million.

Additionally, Little Rock Air Force Base is the largest civilian employer in central Arkansas. A total of 1,244 civilians at the base take home $44 million in pay.

“Little Rock Air Force Base’s economic impact in the local area is huge,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander. “We all know the importance of Little Rock (AFB) to the nation’s defense. This report highlights the financial contribution we make to the Natural State.”

In 2005, the base spent $26.3 million on construction, a substantial drop from the $76 million spent in 2004 on projects such as the C-130J operations training facility, C-130J squadron facility and the C-130J two-bay hangar construction.  
There is $14.8 million in ongoing construction around the base, in-cluding $4.3 million to renovate the medical clinic and $3.9 million to renovate the child development center. The 314th Civil Engineering Squadron is working on a $5 million C-130J cargo aircraft simulator, a new dining facility and a new $2 million air strip at the All American Landing Zone at Camp Robinson.

As the military shifts its forces around through the base realignment and closure process, LRAFB is looking at $45 million worth of potential construction projects to accommodate an increase in airmen and employees.

“The base provides substantial monetary income to the local economy through jobs and the purchase of local goods and services,” Self said. “This report in no way captures the countless community service hours our airmen donate, nor the many other goodwill projects we support. This is only one indicator to show that Little Rock Air Force Base is truly an important part of the central Arkansas community.”

Little Rock Air Force Base’s Economic Impact Analysis is based on September 2005 information.