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Officials studying civilian use of Georgia's Robins Air Force Base

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

SUE SAPP/U. S. AIR FORCE FILE PHOTO

By MIKE STUCKA | The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 12, 2015

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Houston County officials have launched an effort that could put civilian businesses inside Georgia's Robins Air Force Base and potentially allow the runway to serve both military and civilian customers.

It’s far too early to tell if the effort will pan out, but U.S. Air Force officials are interested in learning more, said Charles Stenner, a retired lieutenant general who is CEO of the 21st Century Partnership. Agreements for such partnerships take about two years to complete.

“We think we’ve got a start (on getting) a handle on all the things that will be required, and now we’ve got to get on down the road,” Stenner told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

The 21st Century Partnership hired Jack Metz about a month ago as a project manager to work on the issues, which the military refers to as civilian-civilian or civilian-military partnerships. Such partnerships are commonly referred to as P4.

Angie Gheesling, executive director of the Houston County Development Authority, briefly spoke about the efforts in an authority meeting Wednesday. She later told reporters that similar agreements exist at some other bases, and at Robins Air Force Base such partnerships could help the base weather another round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, process.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance the mission of the base,” Gheesling said.

The Warner Robins government has long been talking about what it’s been calling the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership, planned for a tract of land just outside Robins’ fence. Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Gary Lee said Monday that the G-RAMP name is no longer valid but no new name has been picked. The agency has discussed creating a civilian freight hub at the site, which ultimately could have about 91 buildable acres, in a civilian-military partnership that could divert cargo aircraft from Atlanta’s busy airport.

Stenner said such partnerships can turn underused base land into money, and can also create synergies through related civilian industries, such as aircraft maintenance and overhaul.

Stenner said he’s talked with base officials who are receptive, responding with an attitude of “That’s interesting. Let’s keep moving forward.”

But with probably two years to go before any agreements could be finalized, Stenner said that “nobody can commit to anything until they know what they’re committing to.”

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©2015 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

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A plane approaches over a newly installed lighting system at Robins Air Base in Georgia in 2014.
ED ASPERA/COURTESY OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE

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