BS 071715 HAFB Activation Ceremony 19-12

Airmen from the 34th Fighter Squadron shown at Hill Air Force in July 2015.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — There’s no reason to think Hill Air Force Base will close any time soon, but a new report says if the base were to shutter its gates, the economic impact would be widespread and felt for decades. 

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah recently released a report, titled “Utah’s Defense Sector: Economic Impacts of the Military and Veterans.”

The report, which was commissioned by the Utah Defense Alliance and the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, analyzed current operations at Hill, the Dugway Proving Ground, the Tooele Army Depot and the Utah National Guard to gauge the number of jobs and dollars the defense industry pumps into the state. 

RELATED: Hill AFB has $3.3 billion economic impact on Utah

The institute also evaluated the long-term effects on state and local economies if Hill were to close.

The base supported over 47,000 jobs (including indirect jobs off base) and $4.5 billion in Gross Domestic Product for Utah in 2015, the report says. Hill employed 16,732 military members and Department of Defense civilians in 2015. Including contractors, almost 20,000 people work on base.

The institute says Hill spent $2.1 billion in Utah in 2015, a figure that includes employee earnings, DoD contracts and other expenses like healthcare.

If the base were to close in 2022, 35,184 jobs, $2.9 billion in earnings and $3.8 billion in GDP would be lost from Utah in the year immediately following a closure.

And the effects would linger. 

Two decades after a closure, there would still be 28,281 fewer jobs, $2.6 billion fewer earnings, and a GDP $3.7 billion smaller than it would have been otherwise, the report says.

While the impacts of a closure would be felt state wide, the cities and counties closest to the base would be hurt the worst.

As an example, nearly 7,900 Hill employees live in Davis County and the total wages paid out to them represent 22.6 percent of all wages paid in the county. 

RELATED: Hill said to be in strong shape if BRAC bogeyman returns

The report says Davis and Weber counties would lose $51.5 million in sales and property tax revenues a year after a base closure. Those losses would be offset somewhat by a $17.6 million reduction in expenditures, but the net deficit would still be $33.9 million

Kevin Sullivan, UDA’s executive director and a former Hill general who served as commander of the base’s Ogden Air Logistics Center in the mid-2000s, said he and other defense industry experts are hearing military installation closures through the Base Closure and Realignment Commission could happen in the next five years.

But Sullivan said Hill appears to be well-guarded against closure.

“You never really know — base’s have closed that people thought never would,” he said. “But we don’t think (a Hill closure is) likely.”

Hill performs maintenance on all Air Force F-35s and the base also flies the agency’s first operational fleet of the fighter jets. Hill receives regular shipments of the jet until 2019, when 78 planes will fill three operational fighter squadrons.

RELATED: F-35 maintenance going full-bore at Hill 

The next-generation F-35 mission helps make Hill viable, but Sullivan said the base’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile work and the Utah Test and Training Range are pieces of the base most difficult to replicate.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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