Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is home to about 35,000 military and civilian employees, Dayton leaders said this week — a milestone that represents nearly a doubling in employment growth at the base since the early 2000s.
While Dayton Development Coalition officials cautioned that the number is still considered unofficial, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner — chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a longtime advocate for Wright-Patterson — confirmed the number Monday in an interview at the Dayton Defense Cyber Dialogue with Industry event at Sinclair Community College.
“For some time now, I’ve indicated that we were on our way to hit 35,000 (employees),” Turner said. “And it certainly is an exciting milestone, because it shows really a huge transformation overall to the local economy.”
When Turner, a Dayton Republican, was first elected to Congress in 2002, Wright-Patterson had about 19,000 people “inside the fence,” he said.
“Today, it’s 35,000,” he said. “Those individuals are part of our community. They buy houses, they go to restaurants. In addition, that shows Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Air Force are spending more dollars in our community than they were before.”
Turner and others believe the growth will continue.
“The importance of the missions there is only going to continue to grow, and I certainly hope that at some point, we’ll be celebrating the milestone of the workforce having doubled,” the congressman said.
Jeff Hoagland, coalition president and chief executive, marveled at how the base continued to grow through the 2008 “Great Recession,” the exit of NCR to the Atlanta area, the closure of the General Motors SUV assembly plant in Moraine, the Delphi bankruptcy and other economic blows.
“Wright-Patt is now at its highest point, and the rest of our economy in Dayton is much more diversified and has caught up to it as well,” Hoagland said. “Now, we’re at a stronger point than we’ve ever been.”
Questions about the base’s employment were sent to a representative of the 88th Air Base Wing, the host organization at Wright-Patterson.
Growth at the base has been steady since about 2005, when the Base Realignment and Closure Process shifted missions to the base. The U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the Air Force Institute for Operational Health, the Performance Enhancement Directorate merged to form the 711th Human Performance Wing, which moved to the Air Force Research Labortory, headquartered at Wright-Patterson. They went on to share finance, planning, operations and contracting staffs.
According to a 2007 release from the 88th Air Base Wing, the base expected to gain about 1,120 military and civilian jobs from the BRAC process, with some 3,800 people moving to communities around the base.
The BRAC aftermath involved $335 million in construction and renovation projects, Louis Zavakos, then of the 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Directorate, said at the time.
More recently, the government located the National Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson.
Meanwhile, the steady pace of retirements from base offices and missions creates opportunities for younger workers.
“Today, if you are a high school student interested in math and science, you are certainly looking to the opportunity that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will have a job waiting for you when you get out of college,” Turner said.
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