LITTLE ROCK – The state will commit $17 million to extending a runway at the Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith.
The Air Force announced it would locate a new training center for pilots who fly F-35 Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon jets.
Arkansas won out over proposals from military bases in Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Michigan.
The Air Force said that the new training center could house 36 fighter aircraft, with 345 U.S. military personnel and 180 members of a training unit from Singapore, and their families.
Ebbing is home of the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard.
The governor cited recent legislation that makes Arkansas a good host for military projects, such as tax exemptions for military retirement incomes and streamlining of occupational licenses for military personnel who move to Arkansas from other states.
At a conference in Fort Smith, the governor said that Arkansas was well positioned to grow its aerospace and defense industries.
At the same conference, the Secretary of Commerce said that aerospace and defense industries are a major part of the Arkansas economy, and account for almost $800 million in exports.
More than 10,000 Arkansans work in the aerospace and defense sector. There are 180 Arkansas companies in the aerospace or defense sectors, and their total economic impact is about $2 billion to the state economy.
According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the top export produced in Arkansas are aircraft and aircraft-related parts and services.
The Commerce Secretary credited Arkansas workers for their skills in manufacturing, and noted that jobs in aerospace and defense pay well compared to jobs in other industries.
Numerous Arkansas colleges and universities offer degrees and certificate in aerospace-related programs, and Arkansas leads the South in the variety and number of degrees offered. Five campuses offer a certification in Aviation Maintenance Technology.
A closely related field is cyber-security. According to the AEDC, 21 institutions offer classes or degrees in cybersecurity.
Every year, higher education institutions in Arkansas award about 2,100 students a degree or certificate in engineering or a related field.
Moving Battlefield Artifacts
Artifacts from Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park are being moved to Jacksonport State Park, because the Prairie Grove park doesn’t have the right type of facility for storing them and preserving them.
The artifacts include weapons, artillery shells, uniforms, saddles and furniture. Many are fragile. The change in location may upset neighbors of the battlefield park because many pieces were donated by local families.
Also, they are good visual exhibits for park interpreters when teaching about the battle of Prairie Grove, which occurred on December 7, 1862.
Union forces won the day, enabling them to control northwest Arkansas and Missouri for the remainder of the Civil War.
The Jacksonport park is near Newport. It was a thriving port at the confluence of the White River and the Black River, and like Prairie Grove it is the location of a Civil War conflict.