According to its 2015 Economic Impact Statement, the base has an annual economic impact of nearly $767 million. Throughout the public input process, stakeholders consistently mentioned the base as one of the region’s great strengths. But like all military installations, the base’s scope and role would be subject to review should a future round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities be called. Stakeholders in Wichita Falls understand this reality, as the 2005 BRAC round led to the consolidation of military medical training and the relocation of the 882nd Training group from Sheppard to Fort Sam Houston.
A thriving Sheppard Air Force Base is vital to a healthy Wichita Falls economy.
One positive to come out of the 2005 BRAC round, however, was the creation of the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee (SMAC), which has enabled the community to rally behind a consistent message. SMAC is a non-profit organization that serves as the voice for Sheppard Air Force Base and the broader region. It seeks to protect the base’s existing missions and jobs, pursue new missions, and enhance the base’s economic impact. This Catalyst focuses primarily on continuing the work of SMAC and its partners and further strengthening ties between the base and the broader community.
In addition to its ongoing advocacy efforts, SMAC and its partners have taken proactive steps in recent years to support Sheppard Air Force Base and its missions. These include a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) process completed in 2014 and a newly commissioned strategic planning process focused on mission sustainability for SAFB. Ensuring that the recommendations from these studies are implemented in a timely fashion will go a long way toward ensuring a thriving SAFB.
This Strategic Pathway also includes support for additional needs and opportunities that emerged through public input – namely, additional outreach to the community and enhanced support to help connect military families and veterans to job and community engagement opportunities.
CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY GOALS
Attract and retain residents and businesses: SAFB is a vital component of the local economy and contributes to the presence of thousands of residents.
Increase prosperity for all residents: Ensuring a strong SAFB helps create private employment opportunities and increase prosperity even for individuals with no direct connection to the military.
Enhance the quality of life and quality of place: SAFB’s presence contributes to the community’s vibrancy and the diversity of restaurants, retail options, etc.
Promote inclusivity and equity: SAFB brings people from all over the world to Wichita Falls.
Improve internal and external perceptions of Wichita Falls: SAFB is a major source of community pride and is one of the things for which the community is best known outside the region.
Continue the advocacy work led by the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee (SMAC)
• Continue to support the work of SMAC and ensure that it is adequately resourced and supported
• Continue to work with all relevant partners to implement recommendations from the Sheppard Air Force Base Joint Land Use Study (JLUS)
Advance the development of a strategic plan for mission sustainability
• Fully support SMAC’s mission sustainability preparedness planning process and position all relevant partners to quickly adopt recommendations as needed
• As discussed in Tactical Recommendation 3.7, maintain strong relationships with Wichita Falls’ federal legislative delegation to sustain and grow SAFB
• Because many tasks may not need to be activated unless and until a future BRAC round is triggered in the future, work with SMAC, the Chamber, and other partners to ensure that new elected officials and other leaders who move into their roles in the coming years are briefed on planning activities and strategic needs
Increase community awareness about advocacy and planning efforts
• Work with partners such as the Chamber and others to leverage local communications channels in order to increase community awareness about advocacy efforts, issue needed calls to action, and recognize and celebrate SAFB
• In partnership with the Chamber, SMAC, and SAFB, create a community liaison program to educate and inform community business leaders about the SAFB mission and to strengthen ties between the base and local public and private leaders
Connect military personnel, families, and veterans to job and community engagement opportunities
• Convene representatives from the business community and SAFB to develop a program to connect trailing SAFB spouses/partners with employment opportunities; could include a resume-matching service
• Develop an attractive, user-friendly website with information about community programs, youth sports leagues, parks, utilities, religious organizations, etc. in Wichita Falls; if desired, this website could be designed to appeal to a broad audience with a special section of content for military families
• Work with base leadership to evaluate the feasibility of a survey of military personnel, veterans, retirees, spouses/partners, and others to determine further opportunities for engagement
Strengthen physical connections between Sheppard Air Force Base and the Wichita Falls Community
• Work with SAFB leadership, the City of Wichita Falls, and other key stakeholders to enhance connectivity between the base and the community for Airmen, other personnel, and their families
• Work with all relevant stakeholders to connect SAFB to the community’s growing network of bicycle infrastructure (see Tactical Recommendation 7.2)
• Evaluate options to further leverage the Sheppard Main Gate Transit facility; this could entail subsidized rideshares and/or additional fixed-route transit to Downtown Wichita Falls to complement service to the Sikes Center Mall