Gov. Nathan Deal today announced a comprehensive assessment of economic development opportunities at Georgia’s military base establishments and their surrounding communities as part of his ongoing effort to grow Georgia’s economy through job creation. The new Governor’s Defense Initiative will be operated through the Georgia Department of Economic Development and spearheaded by William L. Ball, former U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. T. Rogers Wade, former president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, will be executive director of the new initiative.
“Georgia’s dynamic military community is a fountainhead of economic activity and skilled talent for the state,” said Deal. “We are very fortunate that someone like Will, with deep roots in the defense industry, will be guiding this long-term strategy to prepare for any future Base Closure Realignment Commission examinations and ensure such a critical industry sector remains a healthy pillar of Georgia’s economy.”
The Governor’s Defense Initiative is a multi-year partnership that includes the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which will collaborate with the initiative’s leadership in forging connections and sharing information with Georgia’s communities and local base defense groups. Additional partners in the initiative will be announced in the coming weeks. Deal has met with Georgia’s military base commanders and will continue to seek their counsel in strategies that help the defense presence in the state continue to thrive and produce jobs. The Initiative will remain in close communications with Georgia’s congressional delegation.
“I’ve worked with Rogers for a long time, and I know his tremendous diversity of experience and institutional knowledge of Georgia’s environment for the defense industry, combined with the expertise that Will brings to the table, will prime the state for the job creation this sector is capable of,” said commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development Chris Cummiskey.
Georgia’s military presence, which includes three Army bases, two Air Force bases, a Navy base and a Marine base, ranks among the top five in the nation. These installations together generate approximately $20 billion in economic impact, including salaries, contracts and revenue generated. In addition, eight of the top 10 defense contractors in the United States have operations in Georgia, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics (Gulfstream), Raytheon, BAE Systems, United Technologies (Pratt & Whitney), L-3 Communications and SAIC.
With this massive presence, the state ranks fifth in the United States for total Department of Defense military, civilian direct-hire, reserve and National Guard employment. Robins Air Force Base alone, home of Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, the 78th Air Base Wing, and more than 60 other units that make up a vital part of the Air Force team, is the largest industrial complex in Georgia, employing a workforce of about 25,000 civilians, contractors, and military members. Dobbins Air Reserve Base is also a significant employer. An outstanding educational system of 86 four-year colleges, universities and technical colleges, including the No. 2-ranked graduate aerospace engineering program in the country, as well as an average of 600 military personnel exiting the service each month, ensure Georgia of a continuous workforce pipeline in virtually all defense-related areas.
Williams L. Ball
A graduate of Georgia Tech, Ball has held a number of senior positions in both the public and private sectors with a career that has spanned more than 35 years in the nation's capital. His 1988 appointment as Secretary of the Navy was preceded by senior positions in the Reagan White House and at the Department of State. He also served as chief of staff to former Sens. Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) and John Tower (R-Texas). Ball was also a member of the 1991 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission and of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. He is presently a consultant and adviser to international business and investment firms, specializing in national security and defense issues, international economic and security policy, and energy. Ball is a trustee and former chairman of the Asia Foundation, a former member of the Georgia Tech President’s Advisory Board, and a former director of the Naval Historical Foundation.
T. Rogers Wade
Wade, past president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and former head of Deal’s transition team, has been active in the Georgia business and political community for more than 40 years. Earlier in his career, he served as chief of staff to Sen. Talmadge. His experience in private industry includes senior positions with Watkins Associated Industries, which has major holdings in transportation, development, seafood processing, insurance and communications; and with Edington, Wade and Associates, a public affairs firm representing over half the Fortune 100 companies from the United States and Europe. A founding member of Leadership Georgia, Wade is currently active on the boards of the Georgia Research Alliance, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, U.S.O., Georgia Motor Trucking Association, Richard B. Russell Foundation and the McPherson Local Redevelopment Authority.