ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla._A new piece of equipment headed to Altus Air Force Base is expected to trigger a surge in the city's population and economy.
For the past year and a half, the base has been preparing for the arrival of the KC-46 Pegasus refueling aircraft. The tanker and its training center is expected to produce about 350 additional jobs at the base, including new pilots, co-pilots, boom operators and trainers. Overall, the new operations are will bring between 1,000 and 2,000 people to the city.
Earlier this week, a group of bankers, realtors, builders and a few others met with the Altus Chamber of Commerce to make sure they are all on the same page. Making sure they are well prepared to handle a spike in business when the aircraft arrives in 2016. They received a survey from the base outlining the expected annual salary that each position is expected to draw.
Altus Chamber of Commerce CEO Brian Bush says they have been planning more the spike in jobs and residents headed to Altus for the past several months. Bush says the Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure no one is caught off guard.
"We want to make sure, as a community, that we are ready to accept this new mission, and to do what we need to do to make sure the Air Force can count on us to be able to be there for them when they need us," said Bush.
One of the biggest steps is making sure their future residents are adequately accommodated, starting with a place to live. Home builder Jed Winters says all of the parties have worked well together in hopes of making a smooth transition.
"We are able to build all types of housing, from small projects all the way up to large custom homes for commercial projects. We just want the accurate information and that's what they are providing us. It's been a great working relationship with the Chamber, with the base and with the private industry," said Winters.
Bush says the KC-46 operations will not only impact the base and housing markets in Altus, but all around town, making Altus relevant for years to come.
"You can't say enough about how important this new aircraft will be to the growth of our economy moving forward. That's going to be huge to put children in our schools, it'll be huge for local businesses, restaurants, our shops, everybody will benefit from this coming into town," said Bush.
The first KC-46 is set to land at Altus Air Force Base in 2016, but the personnel will be in town before then. Then, in two to three years, there could be anywhere from six to eight KC-46s at any given time.