by Greg Ripps
KELLY AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- President Bill Clinton offered praise and encouragement to Kelly workers Oct. 17, 1995 bringing them some positive news regarding privatization in place of San Antonio Air Logistics Center workloads.
Since the June 22 decision by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to shut down the San Antonio ALC depot maintenance activity, Kelly employees have been hungry for news about the future of the base. Approximately 8,000 of them gathered outside a huge maintenance hangar to hear what Clinton had to say to them in person.
The president announced that the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and San Antonio had reached an agreement to allow joint use of the Kelly runway by the Air Force and the private sector.
"That puts San Antonio in a prime position to handle the growth of trade from all over our hemisphere," Clinton said. "If diversity is America's strength, and it is, San Antonio will have the muscle when it comes to trade with Latin America. More action is on the way," he promised.
The president praised the Kelly work force.
"You have shown personal responsibility, and responsibility for your families, your communities and your country. You have proved that you could work together across racial and ethnic lines, and now we're going to prove that we can harness the changes going on in the world today to make America and San Antonio and the families of Kelly stronger and better."
Clinton said that, at his insistence, the Air Force developed a privatization plan that should keep thousands of jobs at Kelly.
"I am here to say that, of course, Kelly will change. That was inevitable, because the world has changed," Clinton said. "But we are not leaving you out in the cold. We will work with you in partnership to protect jobs, to protect workers, to help the families and communities here and to make sure you are still contributing to America's mission in the 21st century.
"I told the Air Force and the Department of Defense, when this BRAC decision was announced, to take all the time the law allows to reduce the economic impact on the community and to create the strongest possible economic base at Kelly and to work with the local leaders to plan a future that will give you a chance to have even more prosperity," Clinton related. "That means we're not shutting this base down, we're transforming it."
The president said the plan to move jobs at Kelly to the private sector would help the people of San Antonio in addition to ensuring national security.
"We call this plan privatization in place," Clinton explained. "It means that for five more years, Kelly will keep the jobs that would be here if closure had not been recommended. And even eight years from now, more than two-thirds of Kelly's jobs will still be here working for the Department of Defense. But at the same time, we'll create even more jobs."
Clinton said privatization in place had worked in other places, citing as an example the Sacramento Army Depot, Calif., where private investment produced "thousands of more jobs" than the base had at the time it was closed. "You look at this incredible resource here (at Kelly), we can do that, and more," Clinton said. "Our plan for Kelly does more than just provide breathing room, it gives you the time we all need for a transition to the future for Kelly and San Antonio."
Clinton said Kelly still has an important role in the future of San Antonio. "With the five extra years we have won for Kelly, the city will have time to diversify its economic base," Clinton said. "And we'll have a new opportunity to build another kind of base for jobs grounded firmly in the private sector and in the strengths of San Antonio -- the people, the culture, the ideal location to become a leading center of trade for the 21st century." (Ripps is assigned to San Antonio ALC public affairs)