Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today, Sept. 21, the creation of a new statewide initiative aimed at supporting and promoting Arkansas’ military installations.
The Governor’s Military Affairs Committee will be a public-private initiative to support and advocate for the state’s military institutions and installations, both at the national and state level to accomplish short- and long-term economic objectives.
At a press conference, held at the Arkansas Military Aviation Support Facility at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Hutchinson said altogether, the state’s military installations contribute $1 billion to the state’s economy each year.
“The installations are also critical to our national defense,” he said. “I recognize that, but we need to broaden that message.”
The Little Rock Air Force Base has a local economic impact of $813 million, and is the fourth largest employer in the state, with 8,000 airmen, 15,000 civilian employees and 3,4000 indirect jobs with an average annual salary of $42,000, the governor said.
Hutchinson outlined the economic impact of the state’s other military installations, including:
- Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, which brings more than 4,500 soldiers for annual combat training and has an economic impact of $14 million
- The Pine Bluff Arsenal, which manufactures specialized ammunition, employes more than 700, has more than $60 in annual payroll and has a $23 million procurement impact
- The 188th Fighter Wing, a unit of the Arkansas Air National Guard in Fort Smith, has more than 1,000 service members and a $66 million annual economic impact.
“Up until now, there has been no statewide initiative or organization that has supported our military installations. We need one. We need to do more as a state to signal our support and put tangible results behind our community support and state support for our military installations.”
The committee will fall under the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which has appointed a senior manager, Becky Rheinhardt, to support military installations as one of the state’s targeted industry sectors.
Mike Preston, AEDC executive director, also spoke at the press conference. Afterwards, he told AMP that the agency will not take on additional staff to support the initiative. Instead, he said, AEDC will repurpose existing staff after the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority merged with AEDC to become its Division of Science and Technology in May 2015.
“We’re shifting some positions to devote staff to fully focus on the military initiative,” he said.
Preston, who will also serve on the committee, said it will develop an impact study and supply chain analysis to determine how the state can benefit from its military installations in the future. This will lead to recruiting businesses that support the military in Arkansas.
Objectives, Members & Funding
The military committee’s objectives will be to:
- Grow and protect the state’s military installations, utilization and missions.
- Advocate at state and federal levels on behalf of the state and local economic development interests.
- Position Arkansas as a priority state in a national defense plan.
- Appoint a public-private partnership steering committee to accomplish short-term and organizational goals.
Brad Hegeman, president of Nabholz Construction Services, will lead the committee. He has served with the Arkansas National Guard Association and the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council.
Other members of the steering committee are:
- Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin
- Maj. Gen. (Ret) William Wofford – Adjutant General’s representative for the Arkansas National Guard
- Larry Wilson – LRAFB Community Council
- Lou Ann Nisbett – Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County
- Tim Allen – president and CEO, Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Jan Gattis Burd – vice president of Commercial Lending, First National Bank of Fort Smith
- Mike Preston – AEDC executive director
- Danny Games – AEDC deputy director of global business
- Ken Griffin – Military/Veterans Affairs Liaison for Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Hutchinson has pledged an initial $400,000 in general funds to establish the committee and commission an economic impact analysis. He said he’s unsure what the committee will recommend, and he will develop future budgets according to those findings.
Below are more photos from today’s announcement: