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England Air Force Base

Purpose: 

Overview

England Industrial Airpark and Community is a mixed-use development with over 300 units of housing and 1 million square feet of commercial space providing jobs to 2,300 people

England Today

England Airpark has become an economic engine for Central Louisiana since the England Authority established the 2,300-acre England Industrial Airpark and Community after the base closed in 1992.  England Airpark is now a 3,000-acre, multi-modal master planned community that includes Alexandria International Airport (AEX), which serves 340,000 regional passengers per year with flights to Houston, Dallas and Atlanta. 

The base redevelopment effort has created 2,308 jobs, representing 339 percent of the lost civilian jobs, with 77 leases for a variety of uses.  Operating facilities include:  office, lab, warehouse and distribution space; private and public educational space; manufacturing; recreation; general and commercial aviation support facilities; aviation repair; a commercial aviation terminal with associated rental car, parking and food service; law enforcement operations and training; and residential options, including senior living, single-family homes and apartments. 

Capital investment for renovation and rebuilding has been ongoing with over $200 million in infrastructure improvements.  The projects include:  extensive renovation and improvement of the airfield; a new commercial air terminal; a new aircraft rescue and firefighting station; new structural fire stations; a new 18-hole golf course; renovated retirement housing; a new hotel; extensive street expansion; and utility rehabilitation and improvements. 

Background

The 1991 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended England Air Force Base (AFB) AFB for closure.  It officially closed December 1992, resulting in the loss of 681 civilian jobs.  Prior to closure, the base was the largest employer in the Alexandria, Louisiana metropolitan statistical area. 

After England AFB was slated for closure, the state legislature established the England Economic and Industrial Development District (EEIDD).  "The England Authority" was charged with planning reuse, acquiring and redeveloping England AFB, as well as other economic development activities throughout the Parish. 

The Alexandria region faced multiple challenges upon the announcement of the closing of England AFB.  The base had been an integral part of the community’s economy – responsible for bringing in about $100 million annually through products, services and indirect employment.  In addition to economic challenges, initial environmental studies conducted in the decade leading up to the base’s closure identified over 330 potential areas of concern, including landfills, above and below-ground storage tanks, fire training areas, oil-water separators, a sewage treatment pond, a low-level radiological disposal site, and a suspected chemical warfare training material burial site.  To ensure environmental actions did not delay redevelopment efforts, a BRAC Cleanup Team comprised of project managers from the State of Louisiana, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Air Force was created to oversee the investigations and corrective actions that were a part of remediation activities at the facility to make it ready for reuse.

As part of the regulatory requirements for property transfer, environmentally sensitive sites had to be either remediated, or remedies to “operate properly and successfully” had to be put in place.  The first property transfer was for one acre in November 1995 to the City of Alexandria for the City Police Shooting Range.  This was followed by the airport parcel transfer of 1,003 acres in 1998 to the England Authority.  The final transfer of property to the England Authority occurred on September 30, 2011, and consisted of the remaining portion of 628 acres, which included the majority of the environmental restoration sites. 

The keys to the England Authority’s success have been community involvement, planning, and execution of the master plan.  Even while working to keep the base off the closure list, community leaders and stakeholders began making preparations in the event of a closure.  The team recognized that a base closure could offer unprecedented strategic opportunities for the community’s economic health and industrial development. 

To kick start reuse, planners used the England AFB 1990 Economic Resource Impact Statement and Commander’s Long Range Facility Improvement Plan to draft a possible narrative for civilian reuse.  They drew a “key dates” action plan that garnered formal support for a Transition Committee that drew from a variety of political subdivisions in the region.  The team also recognized the importance of regional political representation to ensure the community’s voice was heard at the state level and beyond.  From that initial step, the England Authority developed a Base Reuse Plan, an Airport/Airpark Master Plan in 1998, and finally a comprehensive Update to Airport/Airpark Master Plan in 2009.

The positive economic impact of the redevelopment of England Airpark has been documented on several occasions by independent third parties.  In 2009, an Economic Impact Study performed by Dr. Loren Scott reported increased business sales and household earnings; significant numbers of new permanent and temporary jobs; and increased tax revenue in the eight parish region.  He concluded the report by stating:  “By virtually any measure, the injection of new monies caused by the operational activities and investment spending by the redevelopment of England Airpark and the work of the EEIDD have been a significant sales/earnings/jobs/tax generator for the parishes in the Central Louisiana region.”  Additionally, a 2015 report prepared by CDM Smith for the Louisiana Department of Transportation found that the aviation aspect of AEX had a total economic impact of $144.1 million per year. 

The authority manages the Industrial Airpark with a staff of 28 in-house and 50 contract employees.  Throughout the redevelopment process, the England Authority has continued to engage community stakeholders regarding the future of England Airpark and the Alexandria region.  The England Authority’s vigorous communication and successful execution of a challenging master plan have strategically changed the economic direction of this rural community.  

Updated October, 2017

Point of Contact

Mr. Jon Grafton
England Economic and Industrial Development Authority
www.englandairpark.org

State:
LA