By: Matt Craig, Radius Indiana Director of Crane Community Support
Every year the counties and cities around Naval Support Activity Crane expend some energy to assuage concerns that it will someday fall to the ax of military cutbacks. Some ask, “is it necessary?”
Without doubt or hint of hesitation, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Crane’s economic impact to our region is over $2.1B annually with a civilian and contractor payroll topping more than $400 million.
Local leaders constantly monitor base realignment and closure, or BRAC, the process by which the federal government prunes defense spending or rearranges its assets to meet changing military needs. Unease due to BRAC has come a handful of times, including in the 1980s and 90s and in 2005, when the base lost over 350 jobs.
For now, though, it appears there’s little political expectation of a BRAC and there has been a wealth of change at Crane since 2005. But local leaders often speak about BRAC the same way officials might talk about a big flood or other natural disaster. It’s hard to say when it will happen, and so it demands permanent, guarded attention.
That’s why it’s important for the community leaders to strengthen the ties between the base and region—to focus on the connections that have united us since 1941. In recent years, community leaders have heard mostly good news.
Recently, local, state and military leaders created the White River Military Coordination Alliance to enhance communication between Crane and the community and to implement practical policies, programs, and projects geared at sustaining and enhancing the installation and the quality of life in the neighboring communities.
Last year, NSA Crane announced projections to hire 850 new employees above attrition during the next three years, ranging from highly-skilled to blue-collar positions. This builds on the over 400 new jobs already announced in the last quarter of 2018, with new employees coming to both of Crane’s largest tenants, Crane Army Ammunition Activity and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.
Under Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s leadership and the Next Level agenda, Indiana is advancing a more collaborative, strategic approach to growing and enhancing its defense industry. Indiana is strengthening its efforts to target industry growth and job creation, and collaborating with industry, government and academic partners to increase the state’s competitiveness in the defense sector. The Legislature also exempted military retirement benefits from income tax with support from not only state lawmakers but from city and county leadership and the business community.
The Office of Navy Research, Development, and Acquisition named Crane as one of only five national “Naval X Tech Bridges.” As the Midwest bridge, it will work to better connect the Department of Defense with the private sector. Crane will collaborate with innovators, academics, small businesses to bring solutions more quickly to national security problems.
Crane and the region have a strong connection, one that has been strengthened in recent years. Now we must work to keep it that way.