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Wright-Patt to share services with communities as budgets shrink

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and community leaders pledged Wednesday to reach more cost-cutting and resource sharing partnerships, an initiative driven by a shrinking defense budget and less local government revenues.

The partnership approach marks a first for the base in more aggressively courting neighboring communities to share the burden of costs of what the Air Force once paid for on its own. But in an era of sequestration and a downsized military force, the service branch has looked outside the gates of the base for new ways to pay for services and resources.

“We believe that partnerships are the new normal for us,” said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, base commander and leader of the 88th Air Base Wing, at a signing ceremony Wednesday. “This is our new way of doing business and we plan to continue to look for new partnerships and new opportunities while we continue to work on the existing partnerships.”

Leaders signed an agreement Wednesday at the Prairies Religious Education Facility to create a charter for the Wright-Patterson Community Partnership Leadership Council. The council of leaders represent base command, local and state government, economic and education organizations who have targeted key areas to cooperate, such as bulk purchases of commodities, equipment and vehicles and shared use of recreation centers, and workforce development.

The Air Force Community Partnership Initiative started with six bases, and this year expanded to 13, including Wright-Patterson. As part of that drive, Wright-Patterson opened two pools for community use for the first time this year.

Future agreements could share the expense of road maintenance and handle transportation needs on both the base and in nearby cities and townships, among a long “laundry list” of possibilities, the base commander said.

Wright-Patterson has not determined potential cost savings, but hopes to reach agreement in key areas within a year, Barlow said.

Xenia Mayor Marsha Bayless said the shared cost agreements were an answer to declining budgets.

“The Air Force, of course, faces the same cuts that many of the municipalities do as well so we’re all in this together working together,” she said Wednesday.

“We have a long way to go (and) there are many different partnerships I’m sure that we will discover as we continue to work this process,” said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of aerospace and defense.

Educators hope the focus on base internships with a regional website and future job fair will open more opportunities to students and more will stay in the region to work at Wright-Patterson in permanent jobs.

“It’s well-established that employees who come from the internship workforce of a company or organization stay longer, so there’s less turnover,” said Dusty Hall, senior director at the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education in Dayton.

“We’re estimating there are about 1,000 internships a year at the base,” he said. “We think through efficiencies we can actually grow that number because of the amount of money that’s being invested in duplicated services.”

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