Posted: Oct 2, 2013 4:18 PM by Tara Grimes - MTN News
Updated: Oct 2, 2013 4:32 PM
Montanans will say goodbye to the last of the Montana Air National Guard F-15's next week, but their departure will have lasting effects on the Great Falls economy.
Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve Malicott said he believes Calumet Montana Refining Company is just one business who will feel the pinch as the F-15's fly out.
He said they currently supply the fuel for the F-15's and even if they are chosen to provide fuel for the C-130's, those planes do not take as much.
Malicott also said there will be dozens of jobs lost at MANG.
"Between the first F-15 leaving and the final C-130 arriving and actually getting the mission ready, I think we're going to lose about 35 to 50 jobs total," Malicott said. "But mostly it'll be by attrition, retirement, people leaving that sort of thing, so I think the impact of personal will be negligible."
However it's not the visible effects that have Great Falls business and civic leaders really talking, but the invisible effects.
Malicott said no city should depend on more than 20 percent of an industry to support its economy, yet Great Falls relies on MANG and Malmstrom Air Force Base for more than half of its economy. This is causing city leaders to look at how they can diversify the community.
"The idea of diversifying so a bad event in one industry doesn't bring down the whole house of cards, so to speak, rather can be offset by a more diverse mix of industry and employers," UM Bureau of Business & Economic Research Director Patrick Barkey said. "That's really something that's gaining some traction there. I think starting to measure that and a lot of folks up there see that as a goal of something that they want to achieve in the economy, not just growth, but diversity."
Malicott said the want for diversity is why city leaders have worked so hard to bring in new businesses.
"ADF for example, the BCBS call center bringing in 100 to 150 more jobs to town, that will all have a positive impact on Great Falls and I think the job market overall," Malicott said. "I think we'll probably see an increase in housing based on that and obviously it's kind of a domino effect. When you see that many jobs coming into place you'll see more housing, you'll see more stores, shopping availability, more dining."
While MANG said it's hard to see the F-15's go, the incoming C-130's will bring in a $23 million construction project that they hope will go to local workers.
"The hanger will be modified, we'll have a second hanger constructed, we'll have an air terminal constructed, our operations squadron will undergo modifications to accommodate the increase size of personnel" Maj. Cody Smith said. "So there's a lot of changes getting ready to happen, but all in all, once it gets started I think that's where everybody is really ready to get started."