Studies Highlight RAFB Region Strengths and Weaknesses

6:15 PM, Oct 24, 2013   |    comments
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You've probably heard this number before.

Robins Air Force Base creates at $2.9 billion economic impact on the region.

What does that mean to you, and the places you spend your money?

The 21st Century Partnership, the group that advocates for Robins and the surrounding community, spent a year and $175,000 trying to answer that question.

They commissioned a study to find out how the region is doing now, and where it can improve before a BRAC happens. The study covered 15 areas and was conducted by the Middle Georgia Regional Development Commission.

The Partnership released the findings Thursday.

CEO Ret. Major General Bob McMahon said, "Nearly 12 percent of those employed in Middle Georgia are employed at Robins Air Force Base."

McMahon said the studies show, a big chunk of their money makes its way into regional coffers.

It shows that for every dollar earned in the region, 28-cents of it comes from wages spent by people who work at Robins.

In Houston County, it's even more. 52-cents of every dollar comes from Robins wages.

McMahon said, "That's a dramatic number in itself."

He said the number really sticks out when compared to 12 of the other defense communities in the nation.

The Robins region would be measured against those in a future round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, that could happen in 2017.

The studies show Central Georgia depends more on Robins for its economy, than any of those other regions, by a sizeable margin.

In Albany, Georgia, the defense community that ranked second for its dependence on Department of Defense jobs, just 12-cents of every dollar comes from the Marine base there.

Stacked against the country's two other Air Logistics Centers, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Hill Air Force Base in Utah, just 7 cents on the dollar comes from Tinker wages; About 3 cents from Hill wages.

McMahon said the data could be a factor a BRAC commission considers, but more importantly he says, it shows the economic downturn it would cause, if Robins went away.

He said, "We are putting ourselves a tremendous risk if we believes our base is too big to close."

McMahon said past BRAC commissions previously closed bases larger than Robins in San Antonio, Texas and Sacramento, California.

Here's a look at how RAFB measured in other areas of the study:

Cost of Living

Houston County home prices are below the national average. However, the cost for healthcare, transportation and utilities was higher than the national average.

Encroachment

McMahon gave this area a "gold star." He said the region has made considerable progress in working to purchase about half of the acreage they need. Many of the properties bought were in the "noise contour zone" or "accident potential zones."

Air Quality

This too, received a "gold star." McMahon said the area is meeting pollution regulations in most of the region, with the exception of Bibb County.

Capacity for New Missions

Robins has room to expand and acquire new missions. RAFB Commander, Col. Chris Hill, will lead efforts to look for future missions and places to put them, without new construction costs.

Veterans Services

Central Georgia has a large veterans population, that is above the national average. It currently provides service in Macon, Dublin, and Perry. A state funded Veterans Training Center that's slated to come to Warner Robins, would improve the area's attractiveness to veterans.

Innovation Index

Central Georgia can offer more opportunities for entrepreneurs, and needs to make sure the region offers the right factors to support new business opportunities.

Community Cost Reduction Initiatives

Robins Air Force Base has started and is looking for more opportunities to partner with local governments or businesses to save money and become more efficient. Examples of this include sharing a firing range with local police. Future efforts might include privatizing some utilities the base uses.

Child Care - Study should be complete in 30 days

Housing - Study should be complete in 30 days

Transportation

McMahon said Central Georgia's highway system is excellent. The rail and proximity to sea ports were considered good. Airport transportation is limited. McMahon said Macon offers a public transportation system. However, Warner Robins is the largest city in the nation without public transportation.

Health Care

Central Georgia is around the average marker for access to health care. McMahon said he plans to bring in the CEO's of area hospitals to lead efforts to improve health care access.

Crime

McMahon said this was a major area of concern. The region ranked near the bottom of the pile for both violent crime and property crime. McMahon said he wants to partner with area law enforcement to find ways to reduce crime and its "root causes."

Education

Students and teachers in Central Georgia can celebrate some successes and ponder some problems. Overall, the region's education is a low point.

The education level of people in Central Georgia is dead last, in a compared with other defense communities around the nation. About 24-percent of the population didn't finish high school.
That's compared to the average 18-percent of high-school drop outs, in the other communities.

When they broke it down to Houston County, the results looked better.

Of the twelve communities, Houston County came in as number five of thirteen, with just 12.5-percent not finishing high school.

The average among those communities was a 15-percent drop-out rate.

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