Coalition: Wright-Patt has best acquisition workforce ‘in the world’

For the Dayton region, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the gift that keeps giving.

Members of the Dayton Development Coalition Thursday celebrated the base’s designation as the “preferred location” for the F-35 Lighting II fighter Hybrid Product Support Integrator organization, making the base the support hub for F-35s worldwide.

The designation opens the door to some 440 new jobs at the base, noted Jeff Hoagland, the coalition’s president and chief executive.

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The move further strengthens a base whose military and civilian employment is approaching 30,000 jobs. Wright-Patterson is the beating heart of Air Force research and logistics efforts, local advocates argue.

“It’s literally the best acquisition workforce, I think, not only in the nation but in the world,” Hoagland told a coalition Economic Development Forum audience at the Montgomery County Business Solutions Center Thursday.

This recent news follows federal approval this year of $182 million for construction of a new headquarters for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center — also known as NASIC. NASIC at Wright-Patterson has grown by 100 jobs each year for 15 years, Hoagland said.

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In fact, more contractors are moving closer to the Air Force Research Lab, also based at Wright-Patterson, Hoagland added. Of AFRL’s total $15.2 billion in spending obligations from 2013 to 2018, about $2.5 billion of that goes to the Dayton region.

And many of those jobs are jobs that don’t require regional economic incentives, Hoagland said.

“That’s not by accident,” he said. “That’s a lot of hard work by a lot of people in this region.”

Also Thursday, the coalition audience was treated to an explanation of urban opportunity zones.

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After the federal tax reform package passed last year, communities can designate “opportunity zones” to attract new investment. The idea is to reward investment in low-income areas with favorable tax treatment of capital gains. The more durable the investment, the greater the tax benefit investors can receive, according to the law.

The city of Dayton this year submitted 20 low-income U.S. Census tracts to be so designated — and got 17 of them, Shelley Dickstein, Dayton city manager, said.

The city is hoping for good things in those zones, which include downtown, and areas that feature infrastructure and vacant square-footage that would invite investment.

“The city of Dayton unfortunately is one of those communities that has not rebounded equitably from the Great Recession,” Dickstein said. “We have a lot of distress in our city.”

Areas winning the designation include downtown and an area south of downtown, as well as the “Phoenix” area around the closed Good Samaritan Hospital and much of the Salem Avenue corridor.

The next steps include drafting a prospectus for all of the city’s zones to attract investors. The plan is to complete that by early next year.

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