Why it’s important to protect Wright-Patt and what Dayton is doing about it

Easy transfer of professional licenses across state lines for service members’ families is a top priority for the military when deciding where to locate missions.

That’s why Dayton region state legislators once again want to change Ohio’s licensing laws, just one of the multiple ways the local community works to protect the missions and jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

RELATED:  'Magnet for high tech:' How research drives Wright-Patt's $15.5B impact

The Dayton Daily News Path Forward initiative seeks solutions to the most pressing issues in our community, including making sure our region is prepared for the economy of the future. This story digs into what the community must do to make sure Wright-Patt, our biggest employer, continues to grow.

RELATED: Wright Patt lands $500K in state funding to protect base

The Ohio Senate passed legislation late last week co-sponsored by State Sens. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, and Bob Hackett, R-London, requiring Ohio’s occupational licensing boards to issue six-year temporary professional licenses and certificates to military spouses when they relocate to Ohio. The bill is designed to benefit families of the state’s 6,800 active duty military members.

RELATED: Insider tells how the community works to land missions for Wright-Patt

“Being from the Dayton area, I have seen the impact that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has on our constituents and overall economy,” Lehner said. “This bill makes us more welcoming of military families, and helps them get back to work when they relocate to our state.”

The Ohio House approved a version last year co-sponsored by state Reps. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, and Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, but it didn't pass the Senate. Perales has co-sponsored a new version of the bill.

“We rammed it and it just came a little bit short. I’m convinced we’ll get it this time,” Perales said.

What does the military care about?

Military value is always the No. 1 priority of the defense department when determining where to locate missions or what to close in the base realignment and closure process known as BRAC.

But after that, other factors come into play.

“We take cues from the Department of Defense and the Air Force. So over the last couple of years (the Air Force) secretary has stated that there are two big things that they’re going to be looking at if they ever do a BRAC or when they’re looking at missions,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition. “They’re looking at school systems in the communities and licensing reciprocity.”

RELATED: Dayton leaders lobby for region at annual D.C. fly-in

Ohio made progress last year when it passed a bill making military spouses eligible for unemployment compensation when they are transferred here, said James Rickel, central region state liaison for the Pentagon. Ohio was one of the few states that hadn’t passed that law and it had been a top priority on his annual list of ways states can support service members and families in his eight-county region.

“What we try to do is even the playing field when these military families transfer from state to state,” Rickel said.

All 50 states are now part of an interstate compact making things easier for the school-age children of military families, who may move six to eight times over the course of a military member’s service.

RELATED: Here's a look at what exactly happens at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

“That was probably one of our greatest accomplishments. Ohio was one of the first states to join,” Rickel said. “That compact really did a lot to remove those barriers to our military school-age children.”

The compact makes it easier for students to be involved in athletics and not be penalized by graduation and testing requirements, said Mad River Schools Superintendent Chad Wyen, who sits on the compact’s committee.

With about 450 students from military families, Mad River has two military family life counselors assigned to it from the base and works closely with the Wright-Patt school liaison, Wyen said. The district also offers extensive science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming, he said, which is not only in demand in the region but also desired by military families.

Mad River is one of multiple area school districts that have won Ohio’s Purple Star award, recognizing excellence in working with these children, said Frank DePalma, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center.

“Many of the schools are much more aware of going the extra mile to help service families that are relocating to come to the area,” DePalma said.

Other ways the community supports Wright-Patt

As a center of high-technology research and development for the Air Force, the base needs a strong supply of highly educated workers, Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said.

RELATED: Training programs seek to bridge workforce skills gap

The county supports STEM education through partnerships with Learn to Earn, business, and local colleges and universities. In February the county collaborated with Wright-Patt’s 88th Air Base Wing on a job fair that attracted 80 employers and 410 job seekers, said Marvene Mitchell, director of workforce development for the county.

“We want to have that pipeline of intellectual workers and creative workers and entrepreneurs,” Lieberman said.

Dayton region organizations also show their appreciation for military families through the Dayton Development Coalition’s Hometown Heroes program, Hoagland said.

About 66,000 free tickets have been given to military families since 2004 by the Dayton Dragons, Fraze Pavilion, the Victoria Theatre Association, the Dayton Art Institute and for the NCAA First Four college basketball tournament.

“It’s a simple way our community says, ‘Thank you for what you are doing for our region and, more importantly, the country,’” Hoagland said.


RELATED: ‘Magnet for high tech:’ How research drives Wright-Patt’s $15.5B impact

RELATED: Insider tells how the community works to land missions for Wright-Patt

RELATED: Here’s a look at what exactly happens at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

RELATED: Why it's important to protect Wright-Patt and what Dayton is doing about it

RELATED: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base: 5 things to know

RELATED:  PHOTOS: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has wide impact on local economy

Hometown Heroes program 

Local organizations provide free tickets to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base airmen and their families as part of this Dayton Development Coalition program.

OrganizationDonated ticketsYear began
NCAA First Four tournament40,0002012
Fraze Pavilion - Wright-Patt Night13,0002016
Dayton Dragons baseball8,1002004
Victoria Theatre Association3,0002013
Dayton Art Institute1,9002015
Source: Dayton Development Coalition 

About The Path Forward

The Dayton Daily News has assembled a team to dig into solutions to region’s most pressing problems, including examining if the Miami Valley is prepared for the economy of the future. Find our coverage at DaytonDailyNews.com/PathForward

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