Tuesday, January 31, 2017

TOP STORY >> Big base economic impact

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base is one of the largest employers in the state, and in fiscal year 2016 had an economic impact of $469 million in central Arkansas.

As large as that is, it is a $40 million drop from the previous year with most of the drop showing up in payroll.

According to the annual economic impact statement just released by the 19th Comptroller Squadron, the base has an annual payroll of almost $260 million and annual expenditures of $148 million. Add to that the $62 million impact of the 189th Airlift Wing (National Guard) and the base contributes $469,205,764 to the state economy, with most of that locally.

In 2015, the payroll was almost $290 million with $173 million in other expenditures.

Besides the 7,809 jobs related directly to the base, it was also responsible for 2,847 indirect jobs in 2016, valued at $121 million, up about $1 million from the previous fiscal year.

The comptrollers said that the base spent slightly more than $30 million on construction in fiscal year 2016, but the largest expense was health service and care such as Tricare at $65 million, down from the $93 million spent in 2015.

Little Rock Air Force Base, with its 6,300 military members and 1,400 civilian employees is the seventh-largest employer in the state and has close to 60 C-130s on the flight line at any given time. (In fiscal year 2015, it had nearly 70 aircraft).

LRAFB has 7,809 jobs on base and trains 1,800 service members from across the globe on the C-130.

The 189th lists the value of its 19 C-130Hs and other aircraft at $527 million, which would put the value of the remaining aircraft at well over $1 billion.

The base also helps support 53,000 retirees in a state that is home to 246,000 veterans.

Among the units stationed at Little Rock Air Base are the 19th Airlift Wing, the 324th Airlift Wing, the 189th Airlift Wing and the 913th Airlift Group.

Col. Charles Brown Jr., 19th Airlift Wing commander, said, “For over six decades, Team Little Rock has had a substantial economic impact here in central Arkansas and outstanding community support. The base continues to work synergistically with our military and community partners, and we look forward to what the future holds. Times are changing, but the importance of our role in national security remains the same.”

Brown added, “Today’s Air Force is globally engaged and responsive despite being at its smallest size in history, and as a whole, we continue to focus our efforts on readiness across the full spectrum of military operations. Little Rock Air Force Base willcontinue to support worldwide contingencies, delivering critical cargo and people as precisely and quickly as possible across the globe.”

According to the economic-impact statement, more than three-fourths of the military assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base live in neighboring communities. Ten percent of off-base military residents live in Jacksonville, another 10 percent in North Little Rock, 8 percent in Sherwood, 5 percent in Ward, 4 percent in Austin and Little Rock.

Even though 18 percent of active-duty military live in Cabot, 32 percent of the civilian workers call Cabot home — followed by 24 percent in Jacksonville and 8 percent in Sherwood.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher called the base “one of the greatest assets in Arkansas. You can see that with the monetary figure, but it is so much more.”

The mayor continued, “It makes us all better people to live and be around a group of dedicated patriots. We are proud of our base members. The positive outreach of the base extends beyond Jacksonville into all of central Arkansas.”

LRAFB first opened its gates in October 1955 thanks in part to the local community raising more than $800,000 and donating 6,100 acres to bring the base to Jacksonville.