Report shows redeveloped Westover property is economic driver

CHICOPEE – For the first time in its history, the Westover Metropolitan Development Corporation (WMDC) has released an economic impact study that shows businesses at its developed sites contributed $2.2 billion a year to the economy of the State and created 8,438 jobs.

Michael Boltin, President and CEO of the non-profit organization, WMDC said Reminder publication the company has never “been very public with what we’re doing here” and sees the report as a way to market unused properties to new businesses.

The report was compiled by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst.
WMDC was founded in 1974 in response to the deactivation of

Westover Air Force Base. Rod Motamedi, senior research director of the economic and public policy research group at the UMass Amherst Donahue Institute, explained that the base housed B-52 bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Its location on the east coast made it the closest point to the former Soviet Union to launch an air attack.

The federal government reduced the size of the base as it transitioned from an active Strategic Air Command base to an Air Reserve base. WMDC worked with the City of Chicopee to develop this surplus property.

Mayor John Vieau said the base’s active duty status was changed because the Department of Defense believed it was vulnerable to missile attacks from submarines.

Vieau recalled how the closure of the active duty base affected the city. Chicopee “took a huge hit,” Vieau said. He added between 70 and 80 companies closed or downsized in response.

He wondered what the city would have been like without WMDC’s efforts to attract new business. “Where would we be today? Would have [property] taxes doubled? Are we a ghost town?

Vieau also said, “We are really dependent on the economic impact generated by the aerial fleets.” The land has been divided into three industrial parks, one of which borders Ludlow.

The WMDC has developed over 1,300 acres of property as well as the civilian airport. Tenants include manufacturing companies such as US Tsubaki, as well as the Hampden County House of Corrections.

The report breaks down the businesses at the three airparks that have greatly benefited Hampden and Hampshire counties. Hampden County accounts for 58% of jobs with 2,329 employees, while Hampshire County residents account for 13% of jobs at 541.

There were employment benefits in Worcester County (265 jobs), Middlesex County (113 jobs) and Berkshire County with 108 jobs. There are 688 other employees located elsewhere who work in these companies.

The top three communities that have benefited from these jobs are Springfield, Chicopee and Ludlow.

Jobs at the three airline parks “generally pay more than the state average,” according to the report. “The share of WMDC airpark employees who are in the upper income bracket is much larger than that of the state, suggesting that employment opportunities at WMDC industrial airparks tend to be more lucrative than in the state. others around the Commonwealth, probably because of the particular industries represented there. .”

In addition to providing space for businesses, the property generates $4.152 million in property taxes for Chicopee (over 15% of Chicopee’s commercial and industrial tax base) and $1.874 million for Ludlow or over 35% for Ludlow.

According to the report, the property’s civilian airport has undergone “continuous investment and improvement.” The terminal itself is a renovated building that once housed B-52 crews on standby.

The report noted: “Every hangar on the site has been used in one way or another. Most are used for storage of various aircraft. Others are used by businesses completely independent of aviation, such as a hangar operated by Hyundai, a wholesaler of quartz countertops.

To enable round-the-clock flight operations, a pilot-controlled lighting system was installed on the civilian side.

Richard Sullivan, executive director of Western Mass. Economic Development Corporation, said that across the country, other closed military bases have not had the level of redevelopment that Westover has had.

He noted that the WMDC has provided “a very powerful economic engine for all of Western Massachusetts.”

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