Everyone else in the West Valley is taking off—why not Luke Air Force Base?
As Goodyear, Buckeye and Avondale populations ascend and Glendale expands via annexation and dramatic commercial projects (Red Bull, White Claw, a planned water park), the historic air base in the bull’s-eye of the West Valley is hardly about to be grounded.
Indeed, Luke is getting ready to soar like never before.
A mission expansion revolving around 144 new fighter jets is set to pump Luke AFB’s population—and the surrounding areas of Glendale and Peoria, as well as Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Avondale to the south.
Details of the expansion’s impact came out via the Luke AFB Targeted Growth Management Plan from the Maricopa Association of Governments. Luke is gradually ramping up for the F-35A Lightning II jets over the next six years.
Just as the roar of the jets is hardly confined to the base, the power of Luke’s economic engine will blast into surrounding cities.
Glendale, for one, is ready for takeoff.
“The defense-related industry is a backbone of our economy,” Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said. “The mission expansion ensures Luke AFB will continue to be an important regional player, especially in the West Valley. The goals of the growth management plan are to support the base and leverage the opportunities presented.”
Weiers is also the chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments, so he had front-row seat on the new study.
“This plan is a result of nearly two years of work,” he noted.
Litchfield Park and Goodyear also welcomed the study’s outline of growth.
“The city of Goodyear is home to many military families, and we are very supportive of our men and women in service,” Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said. “We welcome these service members and their families to our community with open arms.”
The Goodyear mayor has personal reasons to be excited about the expansion.
“As a military spouse for many years, I know the sacrifices these families make for our country and I am always proud of their contributions. They deserve a great place to call home for the time they are here, and I hope that they will be able to enjoy all that our region has to offer,” Lord said.
What might be called a financial contrail in the jets’ wake is expected to be huge.
By 2026, the defense spending in support of Luke AFB is expected to support approximately 13,900 total jobs, $820 million in total compensation and $1.5 billion in value-added impacts to the West Valley, according to the MAG study.
Base-supported jobs are projected to generate an average annual compensation of $59,400 per job.
And the impact is far greater than military jobs, with Department of Defense civilian contracts and goods and services that support them.
Five percent of Arizona ZIP codes have a higher concentration of defense contracts than the national average—and Goodyear 85338 has a 32% higher “location quotient” compared with the national average, according to the study.
In 2012, the Department of Defense designated Luke Air Force Base as the training home of 144 new F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.
The F-35A mission at Luke Air Force Base is projected to grow the local defense economy by 25%, with 90% of Luke AFB job impacts projected to occur in Glendale, Surprise, Goodyear and Avondale.
In all, direct defense spending is anticipated to increase by nearly $220 million, according to the study.
By 2023, the defense spending in support of Luke AFB is expected to bring not only 2,200 service jobs but also provide 14,000 jobs, $820 million in total compensation and $1.5 billion in “value-added impacts” to the West Valley, according to the MAG study.
The goal of the Luke AFB Targeted Growth Management Plan was to analyze four key areas: education, workforce and economic development, housing and transportation.
The study’s conclusion: “The analysis of the four key sectors indicates the West Valley is well-positioned to absorb the growth generated by the mission expansion and by more people moving to the surrounding communities.”
The 2,000-plus service jobs will bring twice as many to the West Valley.
“Many of those service members have families,” said Brig. Gen. Kreuder. He noted they are expected to be joined by an additional 4,717 household members, growing the base-related population to 23,704 by 2026. “Through these strategies, we will accommodate growth and provide both existing and new residents the best possible life experiences,” he said.
According to the study, the Luke expansion will create “significant demand for gasoline stations, electronics and appliance stores, sporting goods, hobby, books and music stores (with an emphasis in sporting goods), furniture and home furnishings and food and beverage places (bars, craft breweries, and distilleries).”
The MAG study targeted jobs that will be in demand:
• Trade occupations, such as industrial mechanics, aircraft maintenance, electricians, truck and bus drivers, and welding.
• Health care industry occupations, such as pharmacy techs, lab techs and licensed practical nurses.
• Public safety and administration occupations, such as teaching assistants and fire safety.
• Finance-related occupations, such as bookkeeping and clerical work.
Far more than jobs and financial impact, local leaders expect the expansion to continue the West Valley’s military tradition.
“Glendale is proud to be the home of Luke Air Force Base, and for generations we’ve welcomed servicemen and their families,” Weiers said.