Base, jobs important to area lawmakers

By Scott Halasz shalasz@civitasmedia.com

May 3, 2014

XENIA — Politicians don’t always agree on everything, but three area legislatures are on the same page with it comes to Wright Patterson Air-Force Base and jobs — don’t mess with the base and keep Ohio working.

At the annual Greene County Legislative Breakfast at the Greene County Career Center on Friday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Ohio Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) and Ohio Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) updated constituents about the hot topics in Washington, D.C., and Columbus. For Perales and Turner it was all about the base.

WPAFB is always at the forefront of Turner’s mind. When the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission was discussing what to do, Turner spearheaded efforts to make sure Wright-Patt survived.

“We pulled together as a community … arguing that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base should be a receiver site,” Turner said. “We were acknowledged to be as such.” As a result, jobs lost at other bases were shifted to Wright-Patt.

Turner drew applause when he said having a strong military is important as the world is not getting safer.

“We have defined ourselves for too long as having no adversaries,” he said. “We have to make certain that a military is there.”

Another BRAC is likely coming, Turner said, and this time WPAFB could face challenges from other branches of the military when the time comes to decide what to do with the various military installations. But he will continue to fight for Wright-Patt, which has nearly 30,000 jobs “inside the fence” and another 20,000 “outside the fence.” Turner said the number of jobs outside the fence needs to grow.

That’s where House Bill 292, sponsored by Perales, could come into play. The bill, if ratified by the Senate and signed by Governor John Kasich, creates a permanent Aerospace and Technology Study Committee to study and develop strategies to promote, encourage communication and resource sharing, and foster research and development in the aerospace and technology industry.

“It only makes sense,” Perales said. “It is the birthplace of aviation right here in our backyard. We have a lot going for us and we have a lot more we can do.” Perales pointed out that 17 percent of the nation’s aviation and aerospace employees are in Ohio and the state is a top supplier to giants such as Boeing and Airbus.

But he wants more.

“(House Bill) 292 is going to start connecting the dots,” Perales said. “We can make a difference.”

The bill was approved unanimously in the House and is set for a third reading in the Senate next week, Perales said. He is hoping it’s approved before the summer recess so it can be autographed by Kasich, allowing Perales to spend the summer assembling the committee.

Widener said the job situation in Ohio is greatly improved. In January 2011 the state’s unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. Last month the rate was down to 6.9 percent. The number of Ohioans holding jobs or looking for a job has increased, and in the last two years, wages have risen 10 percent.

“We think we’re creating a better business climate,” Widener said. “We know we’ve got more to do.”

Widener was particularly pleased with a recent survey of 736 CEOs from various companies. Ohio rose 13 spots in the ranking of the state’s business atmosphere.