Business Group Highlights Air National Guard Significance

Meridian, Miss. The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation held its Business Before Hours event Tuesday at Key Field.

According to figures, the Air National Guard base in Meridian is one of the largest contributors to the local economy.

A main focus for the event was to inform local business leaders about the significant economic impact of the base.

"The 186th employs almost 1,200 people," said EMBDC president, Wade Jones. "Three-fourths of those individuals live in Lauderdale County. That's a $50 million payroll. Let's put that in perspective. That's the equivalent of six manufacturing plants employing 200 people with a payroll of $8.3 million."

In addition to payroll, money is pumped into the local economy as a result of projects and activities that take place on the base each year. In all, this equals a total economic impact of about $66 million annually.

From 1992 to 2011 the air refueling mission had roughly a $1 billion economic impact on this immediate area. That mission ended in 2011 but is now back. Officials are optimistic that once again it will have a major economic impact.

According to the commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing, the Air National Guard as a whole uses about 7% of the budget for the Air Force, but is now doing about 35% of the work for the military branch.

"The future looks like it's going to get even better than that," said Col. Mike Nabors. "I've sat in on a couple of senior leader meetings where they talk about moving even more assets into the National Guard, and raising that number from about 35% to about 42% of the total missions in the Air Force. All that does is mean more jobs, and more opportunities for bases like us and over in Jackson and other National Guard bases throughout the country."

The Air National Guard Base in Meridian is one of the largest employers in Lauderdale County. It has 384 full-time employees, and almost 700 traditional personnel. Of those 86.63% are from Mississippi, 4% are from Alabama, and 9% are from other states.