The newly formed Grissom Regional Defense Alliance has declared that the active and redevelopment missions at the north-central Indiana site are ready to grow. Grissom Air Reserve Base is prepared to take on more military personnel, while Grissom Aeroplex, the business park adjacent to the base, is poised to attract major defense and aerospace companies.
The alliance was formed last month as a subcommittee of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, reported the Kokomo Tribune. The alliance has started a campaign to increase activity at the base and the business park that could transform the area into a bigger economic powerhouse.
Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, told the newspaper the stars are aligning to bring major developments to the base and business park that could create hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of investment.
The most immediate and tangible development on the horizon is securing a new, active-duty unit at the base. Tidd said the Air Force is considering the 434th Air Refueling Wing, stationed at the base, for a new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker unit.
The KC-46A is the military’s next-generation refueling aircraft, and landing the new military unit attached to the planes would be a big boon for the base, which employs about 2,500. “These are active-duty people, so they’re going to be looking for homes, putting their kids in school and doing all those types of things,” Tidd said. “It would have a huge economic impact.”
However, Tidd said 18 other Air Force Reserve bases are under consideration to house the new aircraft. “This process to select the first Reserve base is very competitive,” he said. “The process not only involves the physical capacity of the base to meet the requirements of the new aircraft … but the cooperation and partnership of the community to help support the new aircraft and increased personnel.”
If the Air Force ends up selecting another base for the unit, there still could be an upside for Grissom. The base that receives the new aircraft likely will pass along its excess KC-135R Stratotankers, and Grissom would be well-positioned to take more planes, along with the extra military personnel that might come with them. “Either way, we have achieved our goal of bringing more military presence here to Grissom and strengthening its sustainability and longevity,” Tidd said.
On the reuse side, Grissom Aeroplex is working to attract large-scale businesses, particularly in the aerospace industry. The timing may be right for growth at the business park because the state’s aerospace and defense industries have soared in the last year, with GE Aviation announcing plans to locate a $100 million jet engine assembly facility near Lafayette and Raytheon expanding its operations in Indianapolis.
The Aeroplex was created in 1994 when Grissom Air Force Base was realigned as an air reserve base. The business park now has more than 850 acres of former base property. After two decades of development, more than 20 businesses have their home there, and about 70 percent of the land left behind by the realignment has been repurposed.