What would happen to the Dayton metro area if it suddenly lost Wright-Patterson Air Force Base?
It would have 80,000 fewer workers, including 31,300 jobs at the base. It would lose $15.54 billion in economic activity. And the region no longer would be home to a big tourist attraction, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which draws more than 800,000 visitors annually.
Additionally, Ohio would no longer host the largest single-employer work site in the state.
Wright-Patt, as many refer to it, is equal to a medium-sized Ohio city during the day, with military active duty and reserves taking about one-third of positions and civilians filling the remaining two-thirds of the 31,300-count published by the Ohio Development Services Agency. The 8,145-acre base sits northeast of Dayton in parts of Greene and Montgomery counties.
An economic-impact analysis conducted in 2019 for the Dayton Development Coalition by the Perduco Group showed that Wright-Patt, along with two other regional federal installations—the Springfield Air National Guard Base and the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center—accounted for $16.68 billion in total economic activity and generated more than 88,000 jobs. The air base alone directly or indirectly supports 80,207 regional jobs, the analysis showed, a little more than a fifth of the region’s employment. Wright-Patt says its two runways support an average of 47,000 aircraft operations annually.
Not having the air base would be tough for the region, Sharon Geier, president of the Dayton Realtors, says.
“We have a lot of military who buy homes in our area,” she says. “A lot of times, after they finish their service career, even if they’ve gone away, they come back to live here because it’s such a desirable area.”
The base’s origins go back to the beginning of flying. Wilbur and Orville Wright, after their work at Kitty Hawk, returned home and developed the first controlled, practical airplane at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, now a part of Wright-Patt, in 1904-05. In 1917, Wilbur Wright Field and McCook Field were both established as World War I installations and, after some iterations, became Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1948. The Patterson part of the name recognizes the family that founded National Cash Register Co. and was instrumental in keeping the Air Force’s engineering division in Dayton.
As the host unit at Wright-Patt, the 88th Air Base Wing, or “Mighty 88th,” operates the airfield, maintains all infrastructure and provides security, communications, medical, legal, personnel, finance, transportation, air traffic control, weather forecasting, public affairs, recreation and chaplain services.
- Bill Ferguson Jr.