Ohio House puts spotlight on aerospace

5:40 p.m Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 Politics

Miami Valley lawmakers are making moves to strengthen Ohio’s aerospace presence and secure Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other federal defense facilities in Ohio.

An informal group of lawmakers with an interest in aerospace met Wednesday morning to discuss plans to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of Ohio’s bases. A few hours later, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill to create a permanent legislative committee focused on the aerospace industry.

Retired Major General Greg Wayt, working for the company CBD Advisors, told lawmakers and their staff members that Ohio needs to be prepared for the next round of the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. Once it happens, Wayt said, it will be too late to build the case to keep or add jobs in Ohio.

“Ohio has lost every time,” Wayt said. “In every one of those we have lost some structure… every time we’ve had some kind of a job loss, some kind of an economic impact.”

The U.S. Department of Defense has requested two rounds of BRAC in 2015 and 2017. Congressional leaders haven’t approved the reviews, but Ohio’s delegation wants to be sure the state won’t receive cuts.

The last BRAC in 2005 identified Wright-Patterson as an asset and about 1,200 new military and civilian positions were relocated there. With more than 27,000 employees, the base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio.

Wayt said Ohio communities can’t rely solely on the emotional appeal of letters and rallies — they need to be able to present facts.

Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, said communities need to request funding within the framework of Jobs Ohio, the private economic development organization created by Gov. John Kasich, and regional development agencies instead of directly sending requests to Congress.

“We need to emphasize to cities, counties and communities that if we’re going to work together, we need to continue to work together,” Widener said.

The Dayton Development Coalition secured $10 million over the next two years in state funding, a portion of which will be spent readying Ohio for federal defense cuts and future BRACs.

The bill establishing the aerospace committee — House Bill 292 — passed the House 90-0 and now moves to the Senate for approval. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, would create a 13-member Aerospace and Technology Study Committee that would include three House members, three Senators and seven members from industry, academia and the military. The committee would have representation from each geographic region of Ohio.

“The purpose of the bill is make Ohio more friendly for aerospace and technology industry,” Perales said. “Simply put, it’s connecting the dots around the state of Ohio.”