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Air Force’s Economic Impact Rebounds From Past Lows but Down From Peak
Post Date: May 14 2015

By Grand Forks Herald
Grand Forks Air Force Base had a $252 million economic impact on the region in 2014, an increase of nearly 24 percent over the previous year's $203.7 million.

The base's annual economic impact analysis, released this week, shows that the impact has increased by 33 percent since the 10-year low point of $189 million in 2011, the year the first Global Hawk high-altitude drone arrived in Grand Forks.

In 2010, the last KC-135 air refueling tanker left Grand Forks as the base moved from a refueling mission to unmanned aerial systems under the 69th Reconnaissance Group of the 319th Air Base Wing.

"That's great news. A $250 million impact is huge," said Bruce Gjovig, director of the Center for Innovation at UND. "The Global Hawk mission has certainly been the catalyst for growth."

The report for Fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, shows the base had 1,586 active duty airmen. While that's slightly fewer than the 1,615 on the same date in 2013, it's nearly 400 more than in 2011.

The total number of personnel, including airmen, family members and civilians at the base totaled 3,984, compared with 4,116 in 2013 and 3,741 in 2011.

The report also estimated annual dollar value of jobs created by the base at $35.9 million, an increase of $2.1 million from 2013 and a rise of $6 million since 2011.

The air base's economic impact is the third largest in the Grand Forks region, trailing only UND and the agricultural industry, according to Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce.

"Grand Forks Air Force Base is providing a lot of good quality jobs," he said. "Obviously it's a vital part of not just Grand Forks' economy, but the whole state of North Dakota's economy."

In 2013, the air base was the 12th largest employer in Grand Forks County, according to Job Service North Dakota.

Despite growth over the past year, the base still lags nearly 42 percent behind the mark of 2008, when 2,189 active duty airmen were stationed in Grand Forks and the local economic impact totaled $433.9 million.

The 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks recently received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for 2014, while several units within the 319th also received awards for outstanding performance last year, according to the report.

"We should be proud of our base, and we are proud of the base. It's a major, major part of our community," said Tom Ford, coordinator of the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee. "It shows that we really have one of the hidden jewels in the Air Force in Grand Forks."

Air Force’s Economic Impact Rebounds From Past Lows but Down From Peak - Grand Forks Herald
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