BRAC will affect us all

DAYTON, Ohio (May 2017) – Without a doubt, long-time residents view the Dayton region as a manufacturing area – and for good reason. Borne over two centuries ago, northern states like Ohio took advantage of its many assets like people, timber, coal and water. Its ingenuity and innovation grew in brilliant scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. We became an automotive manufacturing town especially taking advantage of the passion Americans had for cars and trucks.

Along the way that innovation turned to the skies and the Wrights and others built our foundation of aerospace. But let us never forget that we are also a community that took our knowledge of air travel and diversified it in many directions thus leading us to our current status as a military town; specifically our U.S. Air Force. We all know that the legacy of Wright-Patt was not created here by accident and its impact as the state’s largest single-site employer helps drive our economy.

But this great asset that we have taken for granted more than once during its history has rebounded again these past fifteen years thanks to the insight of military, retired military and department of defense leaders; as well as community volunteer leaders and organizations like our Dayton Development Coalition (DDC).

For the casual observer, many might be lulled into a sleepy sense of security about the long-term health of our military base. For some, they know we are forever challenged by the reality that the federal government must continue to grow leaner and do more with less. Oh sure, we may find one federal administration’s philosophy to be more bent on American security and funding for our armed services. But wait a few years and that may change.

To be certain, we in the Dayton region must understand both the balance of homeland security and the impact WPAFB has and will have for years to come. The idea that another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) discussions will take place is probably inevitable. So when (not if) that discussion takes place again in 2019, 2020 or 2021, what we do now – prior – or during those future decisions is very important and strategic.

I contend that this is not just a single organization’s task; though I believe these leaders can lead us through strategies that can and will make a difference in how we strengthen our community and base before eventful BRAC decisions are completed. The work is much broader.

But what can we all do? A whole heck of a lot. We should:

  • Look at making sure we have a competitive workforce with the employee skills that can work inside and outside the base.
  • Prioritize infrastructure plans inside WPAFB but also roads and highways (like 675 or 35) that connect the base to workers and contractors.
  • Support our state and federal leaders with our advocacy about their roles in protecting our base and the 29,000 workers inside the fence and the 15,000 – 20,000 outside the fence who are directly impacted by Wright-Patt’s economic prowess.
  • And we can continue our role in the community as strong supporters of our men and women in uniform; our civilian defense workers and their families; and those companies who work with and/or serve the base within our region.

Yes, we are a manufacturing region with automotive strengths. But we are also a proud and a grateful military town which must do our part in keeping us strong; locally, nationally and internationally.

When the next round of BRAC discussions come about, they will affect us all. The worst strategy is to do nothing to help before the decisions are made without our input or support. We have a process established and in place. It would behoove us all to ask how each of us could serve and help right now – not later.

To download a PDF of this article as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News, click here.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE

President & CEO

Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce