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One of the great honors for me as Governor is working with our military community. This past Monday, I visited our men and women in uniform at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.
While there, I announced the formation of the Governor’s Military Affairs Steering Committee, a private-public partnership that will be housed within the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Up until now, there has been no statewide initiative or organization to support and promote our military installations. We need one. Because not only are these installations critically important to our nation’s defense, but they are essential to Arkansas’s economic future.
Consider their impact already:
• The Little Rock Air Force Base has a local economic impact of $813 million. It is the fourth-largest employer in the state with more than 8,000 airman and 1,500 civilian employees. The base has created another 3,400 indirect jobs, and some 57,000 retirees in Arkansas use its services.
• Up in my old neck of the woods in Fort Smith, Fort Chaffee is home for the Army’s exportable combat training. Each year, 4,500 soldiers spend three weeks of training there, resulting in an economic benefit of $14 million.
• The arsenal in Pine Bluff is the only remaining active U.S. Army installation in this state. It is an industrial facility that manufactures specialized ammunition. It is critical to our national defense. The economic benefits are impressive: more than 700 employees with an annual payroll of $60 million.
• Back to Fort Smith, the 188th Fighter Wing employs more than 1,000 service members who carry out an incredible ISR mission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The 188th has an economic impact of $66 million each year.
Add in the Arkansas National Guard, with all its installations and unique capacity, and our military institutions here in Arkansas contribute $1 billion to our state economy. That’s billion with a B.
Members of my committee include business leaders, military leaders, community leaders and public servants, including Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, as well as Mike Preston and Danny Games of the Economic Development Commission. To provide them with the proper resources to get started, I am dedicating $400,000 to their initial effort. In time, I’d like to see this committee accomplish three main tasks:
First, find out what more our communities can do to better support our installations.
Second, provide an up-to-date economic analysis so that we know the exact impact our military installations have on Arkansas.
And, last, work to bring more missions to these installations and to expand existing missions.
As anyone in economic development knows, the first opportunity for growth is within our state and within our existing industries. These military installations are anchors of our community; they are economic drivers as well as enormous points of pride.
Finally, I want to salute all the men and women who work daily to defend our country. That mission is even more critical than your contributions to our economy. We support you. Through this initiative we want to support you even more.
God bless your efforts, and thank you.