Glenn Hamer

I’ve used this column over the years to stress the importance of the state’s aerospace and defense industry to our economy and to focus on why our military installations are so valuable to our economic health.

Arizona’s push to protect these valuable military installations and their corresponding defense jobs took an important step on Monday with the state House’s passage of S.C.R. 1001 (military preservation; land exchanges).

Pending a final vote in the Senate, this resolution will appear on ballots this fall as a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize land exchanges between the State Land Department and the federal government. The resolution works in conjunction with S.B. 1001 (military preservation; land exchanges), which was signed by Gov. Brewer last week. If enacted by the passage of the resolution by voters, the state process for land exchanges will be modified to include a provision that allows the preservation and protection of military facilities to be considered.

Preserving military facilities in Arizona by protecting their surrounding areas from development is important to Arizona’s economy, as the installations serve a crucial role in our defense and aerospace industry. The state’s nine military installations have helped the state attract thousands of high-wage manufacturing jobs, bringing with them an annual wage that is over 40 percent of the average manufacturing salary.

Luke Air Force Base alone has an economic impact in Arizona of $2 billion annually, but the folks at Luke are well aware of the effect surrounding development could have on their mission. Consider this from a Luke fact sheet:

The Luke AFB mission can be seen as supported by three “legs” – main base, airspace, and auxiliary fields – each of which is essential to mission accomplishment, and each of which is threatened by urban encroachment.

As I’ve written previously and as has been cited by our research arm, the Arizona Chamber Foundation, the aerospace and defense industry in Arizona is responsible for over 35,000 direct jobs that bring with them an average annual total compensation of $109,000, which is more than twice the statewide average for all employed individuals. The industry’s jobs impact becomes more pronounced when you consider its multiplier effect, which raises its total impact to over 90,000 jobs in the state.

Protecting our military facilities enables them to adapt to new missions, which is particularly important now as Arizona works to be considered for one of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test ranges to be established by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Being named one of the six national UAS test sites stands to have a potentially huge and lasting positive impact on Arizona as UAS emerges as one of the only areas that is slated for growth in this time of shrinking defense budgets. Arizona is already a leading state in defense contract recipients, so receiving this designation means we’re more likely to attract the high quality jobs that these contracts bring with them.

Arizona is already a recognized leader in UAS. Ft. Huachuca is home to the world’s largest UAS training center where nearly 9,000 members of the military have been trained in UAS over the past decade. More than 30,000 UAS flight hours have been flown in Arizona airspace since July 2006, with an additional 60,000 UAS hours having been flown in military “theaters” outside of Arizona and throughout the world.

Rep. Tom Forese recognized the potential for UAS in his sponsorship this session of HCR 2024, which expresses that Arizona should compete to be a test site location.

Having had the chance to tour Boeing’s Mesa operations today, where cutting edge unmanned aircraft like the A160 Hummingbird is coming into production, I can tell you that this is the type of next generation manufacturing Arizona wants to attract more of. The level of sophistication that goes into these incredible machines was inspiring.

Along with proven experience, Arizona has a strong research infrastructure in place to move the technology forward. As the chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council, Steve Macias, wrote in his March column, the state hosts a broad range of aerospace and engineering research facilities, including the Arizona Laboratories for Security and Defense Research, and robust academic research at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Northern Arizona University. Additionally, Cochise College’s Northrop Grumman Innovation Campus offers Associate Degrees in UAS Flight Operations and System Technicians.

By protecting and preserving the land around military facilities in Arizona, we give the state a better chance to win the defense jobs of the future. State Sen. John Nelson, the leader behind S.C.R. 1001 and S.B. 1001, deserves our applause for his work to maintain Arizona’s place as a defense and aerospace leader.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry