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Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

McConnell gets new residents

February 1, 2009

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— An influx of more than 640 people at McConnell Air Force Base will likely mean a boost for the region’s economy, authorities said.

The additions are part of the Air Force’s plans to transfer more refueling tankers to McConnell. About 30 people have arrived since October; the rest will move in over the next two years from air bases around the nation.

Since November, the base has gained nine KC-135 tankers. By the end of the summer, it will have 60, making it the world’s largest tanker base.

“Anytime you bring in that many people it’s bound to be good,” said Gary Walker, general manager for residential sales for J.P. Weigand. “Whether they rent or buy, it’s going to be good for the overall economy.”

Last year, McConnell’s payroll for 2,470 military and civilian personnel was about $227.5 million. The base estimated its effect on the economy at $408.8 million.

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s office estimates the additional jobs could eventually add about $500 million to the Wichita-area economy when a ripple effect is considered.

A news release from McConnell said the additional people will mean “increased requirements for child care, restaurants, health care and other service-industry needs.” It also said many of the people have spouses who will look for work here.

Wichita native Shaid Hermann, a 26-year-old senior airman, joined the Air Force in 2003 and was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Now he’s back in Wichita. He signed a contract a week ago to build a house in Derby, close to the base.

“I was ecstatic, and my wife was excited,” Hermann said. “We couldn’t wait.”

Base officials are looking at ways to help the reassigned military personnel adjust to Wichita and Kansas.

The new servicemen are encouraged to volunteer, said Mary Reece, chief airman and family services flight coordinator with the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

“It’s the best way to meet people,” Reece said.

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