Smart Partnership Drives Choctaw Area Job Opps
August 22, 2018
Sundance neighborhood home owners enjoy the benefits that come from living close to an area with expanded employment opportunities today due to a public/private partnership that was formed a decade and a half ago. GM Plant Closure Results in Leaders from Various Organizations Working Together Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas’ economic future looked . . . well, if not bleak, at least set to take a major punch back in 2005 when GM announced plans to close its $500 million OKC plant. In response, leaders from Oklahoma City, the OKC Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma County, the State of Oklahoma, the Department of Defense, GM and Tinker Air Force Base ended up working together to find a way to repurpose the 3.8 million square foot plant. Through an unprecedented public/private partnership, the citizens of Oklahoma County were given the opportunity to vote on and pass a bond election to purchase the GM plant and lease it to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma’s largest single-site employer. Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC) Formed Working conditions at Tinker AFB in 2005 were less than ideal. Conditions were cramped and largely without heating or air conditioning. As a result, repurposing the GM plant offered Tinker an opportunity to improve working conditions, shorten repair times and become more efficient. Plus, due to Tinker Air Force Base’s proximity to the plant, GM had limited options for adaptive reuse of the facility; and the contract GM had with the union did not allow for the property to be immediately resold. Even when it could be sold, there were many limitations on who could purchase the facility. The City clearly stated to GM that its use would have to remain industrial, as it was sitting on the fence line of the Air Force Base. So, eventually, due to years of planning and lots of inter-organizational cooperation, as well as a vote of the people, what had once been a General Motors plant was eventually converted into the Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC). Impact was Vast and Lasting It took four years for everything to gel: The first business unit moved into the Tinker Aerospace Complex in June 2009. By creating thousands of new jobs to bolster the community’s regional economy, the TAC has helped to ensure Tinker’s competitiveness. The Air Force invested approximately $100 million over five years to transform the one time GM facility. However, that was a fraction of what it would have cost to build an all-new facility. Approximately 2,000 aerospace manufacturing and engineering employees now work in the plant, and the operation continues to expand. A large chunk of the old GM plant is also now home to a rapidly growing software engineering division. Around 1,000 people, mostly software engineers, are employed in this division to help keep pace with the Air Force’s growing tech needs. In fact, the various ways TAC will be used by the Air Force to support our nation’s defense are sure to expand, evolve and grow for many years to come. See the 2018 OKC State of the City Address.