Program works to integrate Sheppard AFB Military Spouses into community

Program works to integrate Sheppard AFB Military Spouses into community

The Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce held its first quarterly Military Spouse Community Tour on Monday, September 23, 2019. The goal of this event is to integrate military spouses into our community through various educational and fun activities. Almost 30 spouses attended and the feedback was incredible.

Our mission is to build a better community through economic development, advocacy and services for our members.

Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce

Our mission is to build a better community through economic development, advocacy and services for our members.

“ I wanted to send a huge thank you for putting together this tour! It was such a wonderful experience! And a win-win; for us because we feel more connected to the community, and for local businesses because we will no longer walk by…but actually go IN because we now know what awesomeness they have to offer us! It was put together wonderfully and I very much look forward to the next one,” said Patti DeMotts.

Each tour will be unique and help to showcase different aspects of Wichita Falls. The first tour started with lunch catered by Jason’s Deli at the Wichita Falls Brewery, followed by CrashWorks STEAM studio and makerspace where they showed us how cool science can be. Next, Dexter provided some insight into their new downtown schoolhouse. After Dexter, Maniac’s Mansion allowed the group to feel like kids again in a space filled with arcade games. Finally, B Cocoa Artisan Chocolates provided an array of sweets that showcased their true talent.

“The Chamber of Commerce of Wichita Falls is a great group of people who are working really hard at making and keeping Wichita Falls a wonderful place to live. They held a military spouses tour of downtown that was just splendid and allowed us, who are fairly new to Wichita Falls, to visit some great businesses downtown. We look forward to future tours around the rest of Wichita Falls as well. They really grasp the beauty of this town and seem to be very passionate about what they do,” said Danielle Whalen.

The next tour will be in December and event details will be available soon.

“I look forward to our next military spouse community tour!  These tours help the Wichita Falls Community show just how willing and able they are to roll out the red carpet for our defense community. The benefit of having events like these are greater than just showing a group of people a good time; they provide a quality of life aspect they were missing out on before. The tours help to make lasting connections that will help our local workforce, retainability, and the overall mood of our community. I am confident that each tour will be better than the last with the support of the Chamber team and a local community excited to get involved,” Adrene Wike said.

For more information about this program, contact Director of Business Intelligence Adrene Wike at 940.723.2741 or email her at adrene@wichitafallschamber.com.

Sheppard Air Force Base – Connecting military families to local jobs

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.

Brig. Gen. Scott Kindsvater, 82nd Training Wing Commander, exchanges high-fives with Airmen-in-Training as he passes through Airmen’s Alley during the Hotter’N Hell bike race Aug. 23, 2014. Airmen’s Alley was filled with hundreds of AiT’s from different training Squadrons who cheered on the thousands of bikers riding through Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)

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)

Recommendations:
• 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

Recommendations:

• 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

Recommendations:
• 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

Recommendations:
• 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

Recommendations:
• 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