Over the past 12 years, Bruce Miller has helped transform the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio into a 1,900-acre industrial complex that is home to over 80 private and public organizations and 12,000 workers centered in the aerospace, logistics, manufacturing and federal sectors.
When he arrived in San Antonio after being named president and CEO, the reuse project already had an established base of tenants in the aerospace industry that preserved much of the base’s civilian workforce pre-dating Kelly’s closure. Miller in turn opted to focus on strategic redevelopment, tackling the need to demolish or rehabilitate existing facilities and upgrade aging infrastructure. He financed the $300 million undertaking through the income earned from leasing and sales revenue.
Perhaps the single-most significant milestone in the Port’s redevelopment was the decision to forge a long-term partnership with the Air Force following the 2005 round of base closures. To make that possible, Miller led the development of a site, now known as Lackland Annex, to accommodate 13 Air Force agencies, including six headquarters. The Port invested $60 million in upgrades to five buildings, and the site now meets the military’s anti-terrorism/force protection standards.
Today 6,500 Air Force personnel work at the Port, representing more than half of the site’s workforce.
Redevelopment of the East Kelly Railport also has contributed to the Port’s growth. Since it opened in 2007, the 350-acre project has experienced a five-fold increase in freight transported due to customers in the manufacturing and logistics sectors and a recent spurt in the energy industry.
Another key infrastructure improvement spearheaded by the Port — with financial support from local, state and federal partners — was a $60 million road realignment that provides access to runways at Kelly Field for 400 acres. Development of hangars and workshops on that property could accommodate 8,000 new jobs.
To ensure the availability of a skilled workforce for the Port’s tenants, Miller collaborated with a local community college to establish a set of innovative training programs. In a unique arrangement, debt incurred by the community college to purchase property for an aerospace training academy at the Port is being offset by credits it earns based on the number of graduates hired by the project’s aerospace tenants. The college also earns credits for retraining existing workers.
Miller’s success converting Kelly into an industrial park generating $4 billion in annual economic activity represents his second major base redevelopment. Prior to coming to San Antonio, he led the redevelopment of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio.
For setting a vision for the Port’s future and laying the foundation for dozens of companies and thousands of workers to thrive in a 21st Century economy, ADC has awarded Miller its Community or State Leadership award. Award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony on Capitol Hill this week during the Defense Communities National Summit.