“National security is a team sport and Ohio is a key player on that team. You support our workforce and provide our workforce to accomplish that mission,” said Lt. Gen. Carl E. Schaefer, deputy commander Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patt.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also touted the state and regional focus on military and federal installations, and said they had joined in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes money for Wright-Patt and other Ohio military installations.
“This is a growth sector. It is an innovation sector,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who joined a variety of retired and active duty Air Force officials, state and federal legislators and local leaders who spoke during the afternoon town hall.
The JobsOhio Board of Directors added military and federal installations to its list of targeted industries, which include health care, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, automotive and others, said Matt Englehart, spokesman for JobsOhio.
The effort includes building “a team with extensive military and federal experience directly engaged with installations and communities, as well as local, state and federal elected leaders and other stakeholders in every region of Ohio,” he said.
“This collaborative, statewide effort can better advance the success of these installations, which drives innovation, research and development, private sector investment and job growth throughout Ohio,” Englehart said.
Retired Air Force Gen. Tom Owen said he is confident the new initiative will be a success.
“Ohio is doing all the right things to be what I will characterize as the most military friendly state in the United States,” Owen said.
Local political and development leaders have long made Wright-Patt a major focus, fighting for more funding and new missions and using the base as a key part of the region’s economic development toolbox.
Officials have been successful in winning new missions for Wright-Patt over the years, although a recent effort to get the new U.S. Space Command headquarters was unsuccessful.
Wright-Patt, the state’s largest single site employer, accounts for nearly 90 percent of direct federal defense related employment in the area, according to J.P. Nauseef, president and chief executive officer of JobsOhio.
The region’s federal military operations also include the Ohio Air National Guard base in Springfield and other national guard and reserve units. Together they employ more than 33,000 people and have a payroll of $2.6 billion, Nauseef said. The region’s federal assets also include the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“Our goal is to support Wright-Patt and create an environment where they can remain lean and competitive,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman.
County programs like BusinessFirst and Economic Development/Government Equity funding help attract and retain defense-related and high tech industries, she said.