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Threatened Guard base gets new mission, jobs

Mar. 29, 2013 - 01:29PM   |  
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MANSFIELD, Ohio — An Air National Guard base that has faced possible closure twice in the past eight years will get about 200 new jobs — a move that a base commander and area officials attribute largely to community support.

Officials have been waiting for some good news for a long time, Col. Gary McCue, commander of the 179th Ohio Air National Guard base in Mansfield in north-central Ohio, told the Mansfield News Journal.

“Community support is really what did it,” combined with the work of Ohio members of Congress, he said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced Thursday that the airlift wing, which was included on a list of air guard bases around the country facing cuts as recently as last year, would be getting a new mission and eight C-130H planes from the Air Force, resulting in around 180 new jobs.

The base was faced with possible closure last year after the federal budget for 2013 recommended cutting the nation's fleet of C-27J military aircraft as part of a plan that would cut 200 planes from 60 military installations in 33 states. Those cuts included four C-27J Spartan cargo planes and could have eliminated an estimated 800 jobs.

The 179th will still lose the four C-27J planes. But under the plan announced Thursday, the Air Force will ship the eight large transport planes to the base, and that means more personnel. The first planes are expected to arrive by September.

Economic development officials said residents and private and public officials in Mansfield and Richland County worked hard to save the base.

“The whole community rallied behind the base, and we were able to get over 20,000 emails to Congress in support of it,” Bridget McDaniel, executive director of the Richland Community Development Group, said Friday.

Brown, a Democrat who was born and raised in Mansfield, said Thursday that the base “will be alive and well,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The initial plan to make cuts at the base drew objections from Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and was an issue in the 2012 presidential race. President Obama pledged last year to find a new mission for the base, and Brown said the president kept that commitment.

Portman said in a release Thursday that “it's been a long fight to show the White House that getting rid of the 179th was the wrong decision.”

McCue said the additions will push the number of employees up to about 850, with most of the new jobs being part-time in the areas of operations and maintenance.

Tim Bowersock, economic development director for the city of Mansfield, said Friday that the base has an annual economic impact of about $45 million on the region, including items such as salaries, taxes and spending. The city has a population of about 48,000 residents, with about 126,000 residents countywide.

Bowersock said community officials are pleased about the additional jobs, but also the new mission “helps ensure that the base is going to stay.”

McCue told the News Journal that “we will never consider ourselves completely safe,” but added that “the morale here is very high.”

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