Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other area military sites have infused billions of dollars into the local economy — a trend likely to grow in the next five years, local economy advocates say.
As Wright-Patterson anticipates more jobs coming to the base, the Dayton Daily News found local communities are bracing for an influx in population growth — more job seekers, home buyers and shoppers in the Miami Valley.
The Air Force selected Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as the “preferred location” for the F-35 Lightning II Hybrid Product Support Integrator organization, which supports the entire F-35 enterprise.
The move would bring at least 400 jobs to the base, but the potential impact to the region can’t be measured in base jobs alone. The coalition said it’s likely it would result in more growth for contractors and businesses — retailers, commercial builders, housing projects — in neighboring communities.
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A new study released last week by the Dayton Development Coalition found that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Springfield Air National Guard Base and the Dayton VA already have a combined economic impact of $16.68 billion in the 14-counties surrounding Dayton.
The three entities generate more than 88,000 jobs with an estimated payroll of $5.87 billion, according to the report. The study considered how employees and contractors spend money generated from federal employment and contracts within the community and the jobs that spending creates.
Most of the companies that Greene County’s economic development program has supported have operations that are connected to Wright-Patt. Eight of the nine companies that have received grants through the Economic Development Incentive Program are “tied to the base,” according to Eric Henry, Greene’s economic development coordinator.
“Wright Patterson AFB is the crown jewel of the state of Ohio, and our department will continue to do everything we can to accelerate the growth of WPAFB and attract jobs to the region,” Henry said.
Wright-Patterson has a total economic impact of $15.54 billion; Dayton VA has a total economic impact of $906 million; and Springfield Air National Guard Base has a total economic impact of $235.01 million.
Local government leaders said the region has available housing stock and room to build additional homes as Wright-Patt grows.
Housing construction has been fast-paced in nearby Beavercreek Twp., where more than 2,000 homes have been built in 24 subdivisions, according to township records. Nearly 70 percent of the proposed homes are complete, with 207 shovel-ready sites currently available and about 150 additional shovel-ready home sites being added this year, according to Ed Amrhein, Beavercreek Twp.’s planning and zoning administrator.
“There is still ample land in Beavercreek Twp. to accommodate future development needs, and several additional projects are further upstream in the planning pipeline,” Amrhein said.
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Steve Brodsky, development director for the city of Xenia, said the city is eager to welcome new military families to the region due to the F-35 program. The city is considering creating a specific housing project geared toward civilians and military at the base, he said.
“We’re already seeing an expansion in housing in Xenia,” he said.
With more than 140 new single family housing units added in the last three years and plans for more than 100 more in the next two, Xenia is poised to help meet the housing needs of an increasing workforce at the base, Brodsky said. Projects like the Hampton Inn, the downtown safety project and the REACH center will also help meet service and recreational needs.
There is more than 2,500 acres of undeveloped, vacant or agricultural land in Xenia, according to Xenia spokesman Lee Warren. Roughly 1,400 acres of the land is zoned for housing, and the rest is split fairly evenly between agricultural and commercial zoning.
“I think the takeaway is that Xenia has lots of room to grow and welcomes any business or residential builders that further support the needs of WPAFB personnel,” Warren said.
As the base grows, so does interest in local commercial spaces that can house defense contractors.
The base spurs revenue for top defense contractors in the region, which land millions of dollars in contracts annually. Some of the top defense contractors include Ball Aerospace, LION, UTC Aerospace Systems, Universal Technology Corp., MacAulay-Brown Inc., UES Inc., and GE Aviation Systems.
Wright-Patterson spent an estimated $965 million in 2017 in expenditures, which includes funds spent on construction, maintenance, local service and defense contracts, equipment and supplies. The number varies year to year.
DeWine’s administration is looking at infrastructure readiness in cities surrounding Wright-Patterson. He said he’d like to see available buildings right off base so that contractors and other businesses can easily move into a building in close proximity to the military.
A study from two state task forces found that aging infrastructure on base at Wright-Patt is an issue. Deborah Gross, executive director of the Dayton Area Defense Contractor Association, said it makes sense to be ready for the potential of growth in the defense sector.
Local communities are looking to benefit from a potential need for more office space. Mark Carpenter, city manager of Riverside, said the city has already seen a slight interest in office space as a result of the future F-35 program.
“We have a lot of base employees in the community,” he said. “We get a lot of base traffic for our local businesses, especially the restaurants during lunchtime. Some of our offices, the Wright Point Office Park, host contractors.”
Wright Point Office Park, a 163,000-square-foot park in Riverside, leases space to tenants including the Army, Air Force and defense contractors like CDO Technologies, Black River Technologies, PE Systems, UTC Goodrich and Global Flyte. Riverside also has four parcels of 10 to 13 acres of land available for potential projects, both commercial or residential.
Pete Landrum, Beavercreek city manager, said most pending and recent developments in his city have been focused on the commercial side of the economy. Some recent examples of these projects are the construction and expansion of Northrup Grumman, the construction and expansion of Radiance Technologies, The Perduco Group and the retention of Woolpert.
“Land is absolutely available for expansion of additional projects related or not related to Wright-Patterson AFB,” he said. “Mission Point is located directly across from the base. City council will be considering a building — Noah’s Event Venue — to house corporate and wedding events on this site within the next month.”
The base brings skilled workers to the region as spouses and family members of employees who work on base. State officials are attempting to make Ohio one of the friendliest places for the military community in the U.S. — with Gov. Mike DeWine hiring a military liason to lobby for local bases.
“These installations are critical to our economy and the whole Miami Valley,” DeWine told the Dayton Daily News. “That is the lesson of this report, and that is why I created a cabinet-level position for my Aerospace and Defense Advisor.”
The state encourages base growth through military-friendly laws. A new state law allows spouses of transferred military members to collect unemployment benefits if the move forces the spouse to quit their job. The law will increase benefits paid out each year in Ohio by about $242,000 — a mere sliver of the benefits doled each year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission. The state issued $854.2 million in unemployment benefits in 2017.\
The state is also passed another law that would require any state or local agency to issue temporary licenses and certificates to members of the military and their spouses who are licensed in other states and have moved to Ohio for active duty assignments. There are around 1,300 Ohio military spouses that are employed in an occupation that requires some form of licensure or certification.
That means more workers in the region, especially for top employers like Premier Health hospitals.
“Premier Health routinely hires military spouses that have relocated to Ohio,” said Billie Lucente-Baker, system director of talent acquisition for Premier Health. “The process of meeting Ohio license requirements, depending on the type of license, can sometimes take several weeks to a couple months. If this new law expedites license reciprocity, it may decrease the amount of time it takes to validate qualifications and consequently allow us to start these individuals sooner.”
More workers means even more spending in the region — bringing in dollars for local retail developments like the Mall at Fairfield Commons and The Greene Town Center. Dayton Development Coalition leaders said much of the development in Greene and Montgomery counties can partly be attributed to the presence of Wright-Patterson.
Steve Willshaw, general manager of The Greene Towne Center, told the Dayton Daily News the retail and mixed development center has a strong relationship with the base and its employees — calling it a “great asset.”
The base brings a wealth of consumers — active military and civilian spenders. Active-duty consumers are young, family-oriented and diverse, according to Nielsen research. Almost half — 45 percent — of active-duty family heads are under 35 years old, compared with nearly 16 percent of total U.S. shoppers. The majority — nearly 60 percent — of active-duty shoppers have families, and 28 percent of them have kids under the age of six, Nielsen found.
“On any given day, you can see dozens of men and women from the base eating and shopping at The Greene,” Willshaw said. “We also have military and contracted workers who live at The Greene as well as a number of office tenants that serve the base.”
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FIVE MILITARY READS
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Direct impact 29,423
Indirect, induced impact* 50,784
Dayton VA Medical Center
Direct impact 2,371
Indirect, induced impact* 3,497
Springfield Air National Guard Base
Direct impact 1,548
Indirect, induced impact* 390
Analysis measured three financial aspects:
• Direct impact: Jobs at Wright-Patt, Springfield Air National Guard Base and the Dayton VA
• Indirect impact: Employment resulting from direct impacts
• Induced impact: Jjobs supporting consumer demand