VICTORVILLE, Calif. --
Once a bustling flight training facility, the former George Air Force Base was the economic backbone for nearby Victorville, Calif., employing nearly 6,000 civilian and military personnel at its peak.
In 1992 the Base Realignment and Closure Act ended George's military era in the Californial high desert.
However, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) wasted little time putting systems in place that would streamline the reuse of the land and speed up its subsequent transfer to the local redevelopment authority.
"We've worked hard to clean up this property and get it back into the community's hands as fast as possible," said Base Environmental Coordinator Don Gronstal. "The Air Force is committed to working with communities like Victorville to facilitate quick and safe reuse, which benefits everyone."
In the two decades since base closure, the Air Force has spent $70 million to make George environmentally safe and suitable for reuse and to ultimately transfer it back to the local community.
To date, AFCEC, responsible for managing Air Force real estate worldwide, has conveyed more than four-fifths of the base's 5,062 acres back to the community. This conveyance has opened the door for commercial aviation, freight shipping and logistics.
These diverse industries have provided a much-needed economic boost to a city that in 2009 was named the second-fastest growing city in the country. Victorville's population was more than 40,000 when George closed and is projected to reach more than 153,000 this year.
Over time, what at first appeared to be a serious blow to Victorville's economy has instead opened the door for an abundance of opportunity, turning land that once sat empty into a thriving, economy-boosting industrial center.
"When the base closed, we found out quickly we were relying too heavily on one industry - the military," said Keith Metzler, Victorville's Assistant City Manager. "What we learned from it was we had to have diversity to grow the job base. Relying on one sector, in our case it was the military, leaves nothing if it goes away. And that's the lesson we've taken forward - we've become very diverse from an industry standpoint."
Driven by the partnership between the Air Force, the City of Victorville and development company Stirling, the former base has been transformed into the Global Access Southern California Logistics Centre. A multimodal distribution hub, Global Access is comprised of three development divisions:
- The 2,500-acre Southern California Logistics Airport.
- The 2,500-acre Southern California Logistics Centre.
- The planned 3,500-acre Southern California Rail Complex.
With its modern airport and close proximity to major highways, Global Access is now seen as a prime hub for companies to efficiently move goods to U.S. and international destinations.
"We weren't looking at just creating jobs; we had to look at creating an environment that would attract those employers," said Dougall Agan, President and CEO of Stirling.
United Furniture Industries moved into an existing warehouse at Global Access in 2011 and currently employs more than 300 workers. Tenants like Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Newell Rubbermaid, Plastipak, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, The Boeing Company and Leading Edge Aviation Services have brought approximately 3,500 jobs to the Victorville area.
"I've heard a dollar can turn over ten to 15 times in a local economy," said Mike Manclark, founder and CEO of Leading Edge. "So you can imagine how much money our employees have returned to Victorville. Overall, this whole transformation has been a real success story."