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March 11, 2015 – The Telegraph, By Mike Stucka

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County officials have launched an effort that could put civilian businesses inside Robins Air Force Base and potentially allow the runway to serve both military and civilian customers.

It’s far too early to tell if the effort will pan out, but U.S. Air Force officials are interested in learning more, said Charles Stenner, a retired lieutenant general who is CEO of the 21st Century Partnership. Agreements for such partnerships take about two years to complete.

The 21st Century Partnership’s proposal was briefly mentioned in a Houston County Development Authority meeting Wednesday, with representatives from the Houston County government and its three cities present. The agreements also would be required for a long-discussed Warner Robins-backed proposal to build a facility just outside the fence. No specific types of developments have been proposed, but Angie Ghees- ling, executive director of the Development Authority, said any proposal would protect the mission of the base.

Image of an airplane on a runway with its ground crew
A NASA ground crew readies an ER-2 and its pilot Stu Broce on the Robins Air Force Base runway in 2014.
(WOODY MARSHALL/THE TELEGRAPH)

Stenner told The Telegraph he is eager for the project to move forward.

“We think we’ve got a start (on getting) a handle on all the things that will be required, and now we’ve got to get on down the road,” he said.

The 21st Century Partnership hired Jack Metz about a month ago as a project manager to work on the issues, which the military refers to as civilian-civilian or civilian-military partnerships.

Gheesling said similar agreements exist at some other bases, and at Robins such partnerships could help the base weather another round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, process.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance the mission of the base,” Ghees-ling said.

The Warner Robins government has long been talking about what it’s been calling the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership, planned for a tract of land just outside Robins’ fence. Gary Lee, executive director of the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency, said this week that the G-RAMP name is no longer valid but that no new name has been picked.

The agency also has discussed creating a civilian freight hub at the site, which ultimately could have about 91 buildable acres, in a civilian-military partnership that could divert cargo aircraft from Atlanta’s busy airport.

On-base facilities would need similar partnerships but could also bring lease money and other revenue to the U.S. Air Force. Stenner said such partnerships can turn underused base land into money and also can create synergies through related civilian industries, such as aircraft maintenance and overhaul.

Stenner said he has talked with base officials who are receptive, responding with an attitude of “That’s interesting. Let’s keep moving forward.”

But with probably two years to go before any agreements could be finalized, Stenner said “nobody can commit to anything until they know what they’re committing to.”

 

The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.

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