05/31/13 – New Taskforce Formed to Focus on Retention and Expansion of Scott Air Force Base

Edwardsville, ILL., May 31, 2013 – The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois today announced that St. Clair and Madison counties and the Leadership Council are joining forces to launch a taskforce that will work on the continued retention and expansion of Scott Air Force Base in the coming years. As the Department of Defense continues to look for ways to cut costs and the potential of another possible round of Base Realignment and Closure looms on the horizon, the taskforce will be working to determine what can and should be done to continue to help protect and grow the base.

“We have to plan now to ensure Scott Air Force Base is poised for success and growth in the future,” said Congressman Bill Enyart (D-IL). “This requires a strong network of local and state leadership working alongside business, education and industry in a regional collaborative effort. It’s imperative that the entire region pull together now to make Scott’s future growth its top priority. I look forward to working with the taskforce to accomplish the hard work that lies ahead of us.”

The taskforce will be co-chaired by Ellen Krohne, Executive Director of the Leadership Council; Terry Beach, Director of Economic Development for St. Clair County, and Frank Miles, Business Development Manager of America’s Central Port, representing Madison County. Additional taskforce members include Gerry Schuetzenhofer, President of Coldwell Banker Brown Realtors and Chairman of the Leadership Council’s Military Affairs Committee; Ronda Sauget, President of Validus Strategies and current President of the Leadership Council; Mike Leopold, Senior Vice President of Huntleigh Security Corp., and Retired Major General Jack Griffith. The parties involved have already been mobilized to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding the decisions being made on where to locate the newest generation of air refueling tankers. The task force will be working to engage a broader coalition to include local mayors and other regional leaders from both sides of the Mississippi River as it moves forward.

“While Scott Air Force Base wasn’t included on the list of bases being considered for the first round of new tankers, our team has been collaborating with colleagues at the base and with our Illinois federal delegation to learn more about how Scott scored, where Scott may be deficient and what we, as a region, can do to ensure our base will be well positioned for consideration in the future,” noted Krohne. She adds that those efforts also will ramp up under the guidance of the new taskforce, which will be hiring the appropriate consultants and advisors as the need arises. One of the first items on the agenda will be working with the base to conduct a strategic analysis of the factors that can aid in continued growth of Scott, including the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This will help to guide the development of the taskforce’s formal action plan in the months to come.

“Whether it’s another BRAC or additional Department of Defense reductions, it’s imperative that we be prepared to not only protect Scott, but to ensure that we are helping to strengthen the base for the future,” noted St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. “Scott’s annual impact on our region tops $3 billion, and we will do everything we can to retain and grow that vital asset.”

The St. Louis region is familiar with the base closure process, and as the regional economic development organization representing Madison and St. Clair counties, the Leadership Council has been a driving force behind the efforts to preserve and enhance Scott Air Force Base.  In 1995 and again in 2005, Madison and St. Clair counties, the State of Illinois, the Leadership Council and the St. Louis Regional Chamber worked with the Illinois delegation to keep Scott Air Force Base open. After much hard work, preparation, cooperation and support, the groups’ efforts successfully defended the base during both rounds of BRAC, and in the last 10 years, the economic impact of the base has increased by 40 percent.

One of the primary lessons learned from those efforts is that community support is essential in helping keep a base open. A strong community effort matters to the Department of Defense when it looks for ways to evaluate and compare bases across the country. The recent recognition of the St. Louis region as the winner of the Abilene Trophy, which is awarded to the community that best supports the airmen at Air Mobility Command bases, is a testament to the strength of the community support for Scott Air Force Base that exists here in the St. Louis region.

“As the taskforce engages on this vital issue for our region, we know we can count on the St. Louis region to be behind us every step of the way,” noted Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan. “The outcome of the 2005 BRAC validated what we’ve known all along – that Scott Air Force Base is an outstanding military facility with an exceptional staff that does a tremendous job defending this nation. We’re committed to making sure that work continues right here at Scott.”

As the taskforce gears up, those leading it recognize that the many enhancements at Scott between the 1995 and 2005 rounds of BRAC were also a key factor in the decision to keep Scott open. The construction of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport as a joint-use facility adjacent to Scott Air Force Base added a new 10,000-foot runway, a 7,000-foot taxiway and renovated and extended Scott Air Force Base’s runway to 8,000 feet. In addition, a state-of-the-art FAA traffic control tower was added to allow the base to handle more traffic with maximum safety. The126th Air National Guard Refueling Wing relocated to Scott AFB, and it also became home to the 18th Air Force Headquarters.

“Since 2005, not only has Scott AFB held onto its ranking as one of the largest employers in the St. Louis metropolitan region, but it has also added new missions as a result of the consolidation that followed the last BRAC,” noted Krohne. “The base continues to have excess ramp space to accommodate more aircraft, buildable acreage on base, and hundreds of adjacent acres of land available for future expansion, as well as an award-winning land use plan. The opportunities for future growth are tremendous, and our taskforce will make every effort to turn those opportunities into reality.”

The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is a member-based, economic development corporation representing Madison and St. Clair counties. The Council works to unite business, industry, government, education and labor for economic growth in Southwestern Illinois. These effective partnerships serve as a driving force behind successful economic development efforts throughout the Metro East region.

For more information, contact:

Julie Hauser, The Hauser Group, Inc. 314.436.9090

Ellen KrohneLeadership Council Southwestern Illinois. 618.692.9745