Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Wednesday's announcement by the U.S. Air Force that McConnell Air Force Base has been selected as the Main Operating Base for the new KC-46A refueling tanker solidifies a major component of the Wichita-area economy.
McConnell already has a $600 million annual economic impact in Wichita and south-central Kansas. The decision means that economic activity should remain in the area and even more may arrive.
"We probably got everything that we hoped we would get," said Jack Pulley, president of Friends of McConnell.
The group was among several that worked tirelessly over the past couple of years to help McConnell land the new tanker mission.
"For us that have worked on it and worried about it more than some, it's kind of a relief," Pulley said. You feel everything drain out of your body. It feels good."
Also relieved are local leaders. They are excited by the economic opportunity presented by the new mission. New construction required for the base to accommodate 36 of the KC-46A tankers could pump anywhere from $63 million to $193 million into the area economy.
"You're talking about a military base with approximately 20,000 people that are actually assigned there," Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said. "And it has a $600 million impact on the city of Wichita and our region alone."
That impact could get bigger.
"They're going to need to probably add personnel, add services and those sorts of things that the men and women utilize out there every day on the base," said Wichita City Councilman James Clendenin, whose district surrounds McConnell.
Growth will not be limited to Wichita. Derby already owes much of its growth to McConnell.
"Derby has grown -- really almost doubled in population in the last 20 years," city manager Kathy Sexton said. "And really the last eight years, we've seen explosive growth in our commercial sector."
Sexton said the new tanker mission should help sustain that momentum with many Airmen choosing to return to Derby after retiring from the Air Force.
"Many of them buy homes here while they're here and then rent them to other Air Force families while they're gone and then they come back," Sexton said. "We love that because those retirees are great contributors to the community."