Come partner with us

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and community leaders met in neighboring Fairborn Feb. 20 to initiate a major new effort focused on developing and expanding partnerships.

"We're looking for shared value and for common ground," said Col. Cassie Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, during a presentation at the Wright-Patterson Community Partnership Day. The event brought together about 160 Air Force and Miami Valley regional stakeholders to brainstorm ideas to integrate community resources and military installation capabilities in order to find solutions to unmet needs.

This is a new process and something that really hasn't been done before, said Maj. Timorah Beales, action officer from the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations and the Environment, which is facilitating innovative partnerships to reduce operating and service costs in support of the Air Force mission.

The timing isn't coincidental. The Air Force Community Partnership initiative was conceived against the backdrop of a difficult fiscal environment for many communities and defense spending on a downward slope for the foreseeable future.

"We are now, as an Air Force, able to enter into partnerships that were previously off the table," Maj Beales said, highlighting new legislative authority which expands the ability of the military to enter into agreements with various entities to enhance the military mission, and improve quality of life for base Airmen.

The concept is to bring together public and private sector leaders to develop creative ways to match their resources to reduce cost or risk and enhance efficiencies. The collaboration must benefit both the Air Force and local communities.

Wright-Patterson is the first Air Force base to use the new formal process this year, after it was successfully prototyped at several other installations in 2013.

Community Partnership Day participants came from regional colleges and universities, local government and economic development agencies, and large and small businesses from southwest Ohio.

Breaking into working groups, they focused efforts initially into four areas: medical; education; infrastructure and services; research, test, development, supply chain and life cycle management, said facilitator Dr. Julianna Birkhoff.

Ideas generated ranged widely, from using economies of scale in road maintenance salt buys and pot hole repair to shared recreational and child care facilities. A number of themes emerged such as shared career training and workforce development, mentorship and better integration of science and technology education, expanding medical partnerships with regional hospitals, sharing laboratory space and ways to more efficiently transfer new Air Force technologies to the private sector. Participants also mentioned economic development goals for Dayton's technology corridor and downtown area while capitalizing on community strengths like a robust aquifer system.

Enhanced Use Leases were also highlighted with Wright-Patterson civil engineers unveiling six candidate parcels of base land totaling approximately 125 acres for potential community development. Enhanced Use Lease allows the Air Force to lease underutilized property to public and private entities for cash and in-kind consideration. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center oversees execution of the leases and will publish parcel information on the Federal Business Opportunities website, www.fbo.gov.

Laura Wade, a community planner with the base Civil Engineering Directorate, provided an overview of base missions and detailed locations of each parcel being offered for potential lease, before two buses with developers and other interested parties toured the parcels in Areas A and B.

Colonel Barlow called the new partnership and proven Enhanced Used Lease processes both "exciting" and necessary. She noted some partnerships may be penned quickly, while others will take time and navigating through red tape, but the investment of effort will pay off for all involved. All major mission partners on the installation are participating, she said.

"We live in unprecedented times and it's time to do things in an unprecedented way," she said.

Community and base work groups will continue to meet to further define ideas, ensure the right stakeholders are involved, identify constraints and "keep the momentum going," said Dr. Birkhoff.

Colonel Barlow said she was very pleased with the community interest in new partnerships, which was echoed by several Dayton-area leaders who were equally encouraged the Air Force was reaching out to invite the community to work together to solve problems.

"I thought it was a great day," said Deborah Norris, vice president for workforce development and corporate services with Sinclair Community College. "Wright-Patterson is so vitally important to our economic development. I think the base is very committed to this. That came through loud and clear. And I think we have community partners that said 'we're here to support the base in any way we can.'"