Air Force personnel walk from the airfield management operations area at Travis Air Force Base on March 23. The base has been called the "crown jewel" of the county. (File Photo: Rick Roach / The Reporter)
Solano County's largest employer, Travis Air Force Base, brings with it a $1.5 billion annual impact to the local economy.
That number, according to Col. James Vechery, is the reason why Solano County can share in the success of the air base.

"It truly is a partnership," he said to those gathered at Thursday's Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC) breakfast. "We have a legacy of excellence."

Of the $1.5 billion, $737 million is payroll for all employees, including civilians, $514 million is spent on operating costs and $249 million is the value of jobs generated in the local community. Travis also has $13.5 billion in assets and expenditures.

As the largest air mobility base, Travis continues to be the "crown jewel" of Solano County, not only for being an economic powerhouse in the county, but mostly for the men and women who serve at Travis, "they are the best of the best," said Scott Reynolds, EDC board chairman.

There are 10,168 active duty and reservists under the guidance of the base, and 774 airmen are deployed as of May 16.

Col. John Lipinski explained that Travis continues to be the gateway to the Pacific and plays a major role in national security.

He was in Japan during operation Tomodachi, which first sent relief to the country hit by an massive earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and followed with more than 2,600 dependents of military personnel leaving Japan and coming to the United States through Travis.

"End to end, it was magnificent," he said.

Vechery said as good as Travis is today, it isn't good enough for tomorrow.

"We have to look at what we're doing and figure out how to do it better," he said. "We have a tradition of getting the job done."

He also shared some major construction projects planned to be completed by 2013.

"We might have to change that plan to 2050 given the resources," he joked. "But we have a plan."

The base is in the process of an $8 million renovation project for seven out of the 16 dorms. With a cost of $22 million, a new 144-bedroom apartment-style dorm also will be built.

In February, The Zone opened, a new community center in the old officer's club.

Other projects include:

* A revamp of the south gate to cost nearly $6 million, which will better accommodate commercial vehicles coming in and out of the base;

* A new fire station will improve response times, according to Vechery. The $11.9 million station will have 12 truck bays and 18 bunk rooms; and
* A new cargo-loading training facility is already under way and is expected to cost $5.4 million as part of a training project for loading KC-10 jets with cargo.

Additional projects include a full replacement of one of the two runways, $49.8 million; replacement of aging fuel distribution system and fill stand, $13.4 million; and a new bypass road that eliminates commercial traffic crossing an active taxiway, $6 million.

"The discussion of the future was interesting to hear," said Mike Ammann, EDC president. "We usually don't hear much of the ongoing upgrading of facilities. It's great to hear about the continued investment in facilities and its people.

"We've all worked together to make some of those projects happen. It's great to have a good relationship, but it's better to have results."

He explained that Solano EDC, Solano Transportation Authority, Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee and the Travis Community Consortium have worked together on various projects, including gate access.