PITTSTON — Officials know how important the Tobyhanna Army Depot and its 3,600 jobs are to the region, and they say they will fight to keep the Depot open if it ever goes on the chopping block.
Proof of that came Tuesday when elected officials and economic development experts gathered at the offices of NEPA Alliance on Oak Street in Pittston.
With thousands of civilian jobs in the balance, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, along with colleagues on the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission (PMCEC), released the results of a “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” analysis of Pennsylvania’s 12 major military installations.
The report, commissioned by PMCEC and conducted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, explains the economic impact of the installations, outlines the risk presented by possible Department of Defense realignment to local communities, and makes recommendations for future action by elected officials.
Frank Zardecki, deputy commander at Tobyhanna, said the depot has seen some $736 million in upgrades in recent years. He said the depot will be hiring an additional 200 people by Oct. 1 to add the current employee roster of 3,600.
“We recently held a job fair at the depot and 1,800 people showed up,” Zardecki said.
Zardecki said there is always a concern about another realignment, which is why the work being done to prepare is critical.
“It all helps in our preparation,” Zardecki said. “We have to promote our region and our state.”
Tuesday’s event focused on the importance of the Tobyhanna Army Depot and its economic impact on the region and the state.
“This is the nerve center for our military and economy,” Stack said. “It’s our leading job creator. We must do everything we can to assure Tobyhanna stays.”
Stack candidly acknowledged the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process can often have political motives.
“We have to be ready to present our case,” Stack said. “We have to have all the information ready if and when the time comes, so we can present our best case.”
Stack said should the BRAC process come, the competition “will be fierce.”
State Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, said the gathering of all the local stakeholders to discuss the economic analysis of the state’s military installations is critical in the retention process.
”Tobyhanna is arguably the most important driver of our regional economy with an over $3 billion annual economic impact and it remains one of our largest employers,” Blake said.
Blake is a member of the former Pa. Base Development Commission and now serves as a founding member of the Military Community Enhancement Commission.
”The study commissioned by the PMCEC and released today by the University of Pittsburgh only further proves that we need a concerted effort in Washington, in Harrisburg and locally to ensure Pennsylvania installations and Pennsylvania workers are not endangered by future BRAC decisions or decisions by individual branches of our military services,” Blake said.
Blake also credited the work of President/CEO Jeff Box and NEPA Alliance for coordinating the Blue Ribbon Task Force, which advocates on behalf of Tobyhanna.
At present, the Defense Department has backed off its request for another BRAC in 2019. Congress has not been particularly amenable to another round since the last BRAC round in 2005.
• Pennsylvania is the workplace of more than 56,000 DoD employees, including civilians, active duty service members, reservists of all branches, and Army and Air National Guard members.
• Civilians make up 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s full-time DoD workforce.
• Through direct, indirect, and induced effects, Pennsylvania’s major military installations generated $4 billion in labor income and $11 billion in total economic output in 2016, resulting in 55,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the state.
• Each installation is among the largest and most established employers in its county.