Wagner touts Buckley’s impact at state of base

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AURORA | Buckley Air Force Base’s economic impact on Aurora inched up in 2015, but still lagged below the $1-billion mark it regularly topped before 2013.

In the annual State of the Base speech last week, Base Commander Col. John Wagner said Buckley pumped more than $923 million into the local economy last year.

Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander, addresses community leaders at the annual State of the Base Jan. 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Aurora. The State of the Base luncheon gives Buckley Air Force Base leaders the opportunity to connect with community leaders, giving them information on upcoming projects and the base’s economic impact. Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Courtesy of U.S. Air ForceThat includes $65 million in construction costs, a figure well below previous years when the Air Force invested heavily in converting Buckley into a full-fledged Air Force base, a process that required about a decade of heavy construction on base.

During that stretch from 2001 to 2013, the base’s economic impact regularly topped $1 billion each year, though base officials stressed for years that the rate of growth would eventually slow.

Still, while construction isn’t occurring on Buckley at the pace it once was, the base’s economic impact has climbed each of the past two years from a low of about $800 million in 2013.

Wagner said that in terms of military construction, the base also remains one of the Air Force’s faster-growing installations.

The base had 116 military construction projects last year, he said, and those totaled more than $52 million.

Those figures far outpaced two nearby bases, Schriever and Peterson in Colorado Springs. Schriever saw 36 projects that totaled about $11 million while Peterson saw 10 totaling about $5 million.

The base’s core mission — missile defense warning — also continued to grow last year, he said, with the 460th Wing detecting close to 400 missile incidents.

Wagner said the base is looking far into the future as it plans further growth.

“We’re not only building the Buckley of 2016, but the Buckley of 2036,” Wagner said, according to 460th Space Wing public affairs.

Wagner said the base has only built on about a third of its available space, which gives it ample room to add facilities that are vital to national defense.

And, Wagner said, that growth will be key for the surrounding community.

“Those people who are building the parking lots, those people who are building the additions, those are all folks that we hire from the local community,” Wagner said. “This construction, not only in the medical group but also the other military construction projects, is going to continue for the next several years. We hope that that is going to lift the economy of the community as well.”

Dick Hinson of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said that beyond the obvious economic benefits the base provides — including constriction jobs and other employees on the base — it also provides some benefits that are tougher to measure.

For AEDC, which aims to recruit new businesses to Aurora, Hinson said staff regularly point to Buckley and the high-tech work that goes on there when they pitch prospective businesses on making Aurora their new home.

And just having the base here, and all the satellite and other space-based technologies included there, is part of the reason high-paying companies like Raytheon choose to have operations in Aurora, Hinson said.