The former Williams Air Force Base a model for successful redevelopment
Since Williams closed under BRAC, redevelopment has boomed, with Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport today hosting more than 40 companies and serving 35 cities with non-stop service via Allegiant Airlines.
In 1991, when the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission announced that Williams Air Force Base in Mesa, Ariz. would close, the surrounding community feared it was a death knell for the region.
Now, some 24 years later, the greater Mesa region sees things differently. Today, the former base is home to a thriving airport, several colleges, and numerous businesses bringing 10,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in economic activity to the region, more than when the base was open.
For half a century, Williams served as a flight training base and was Mesa's financial focal point, providing economic affluence to a growing community.
Then, in 1993, Williams was among 12 major Air Force installations closed under BRAC. But thanks to a lot of help from the Air Force and BRAC resources, the City of Mesa transformed Williams into a base closure success story.
Behind the efforts of Air Force engineers and real estate specialists, Mesa rapidly received the keys to the 4,000-acre base enabling a timely redevelopment.
Leading the way is the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which provides an anchor for a diverse selection of other businesses and educational centers that now call Williams home.
"What this airport means to the valley, to Arizona, is jobs," said Brian Sexton, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Public Information Officer. "It's a job generator, it's an economic activity generator, and we have more than $1.3 billion generated here every year."
A short distance away, more than 10,000 students are enrolled in 40 degree programs at Arizona State University's Polytechnic Campus. And right next door, the Chandler-Gilbert Community College has made use of buildings, such as hangers and offices, once used by the Air Force.
As a BRAC base, Williams is a good model for how communities can end up better off than before. Today the region has more jobs, more diversification and more economic impact then when the base was open.
"The Air Force has really completed the vast majority of the work that we need to do at Williams," said Philip Mook, Chief, Western Execution Branch, Air Force Civil Engineer Center. "I think everybody will be happy to see the Air Force transition out of an active role and let the community have the full enjoyment of the property."
And although Williams Air Force Base is gone, its aviation legacy remains--providing the region with a powerful economic engine that continues to take Mesa to new heights.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center manages the disposal of Air Force property in accordance with Base Realignment and Closure law and a BRAC Master Plan. The goal of Air Force BRAC is to return value to the Air Force and local communities by transferring surplus military property and ensuring the protection of human health and the environment on former military installations.