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Business and Economy

Oklahoma City, County Partner For Tinker Expansion, Love's Embraces Diversification

Gov. Mary Fallin and U.S. Air Force officials attend the announcement of a deal that will provide more land for Tinker Air Force Base.
Kelly White
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Tinker Take Off
Gov. Mary Fallin and U.S. Air Force officials attend the announcement of a deal that will provide more land for Tinker Air Force Base.

On Wednesday Tinker Air Force Base announced it now owns 158 acres of land just west of the base to house the maintenance hub for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus, which is designed to be the next-generation aerial refueling plane.

The land previously belonged to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., which used it as a yard to serve the General Motors assembly plant that closed nearly a decade ago.

"It was a pretty big loss when GM shut down that SUV plant in 2006. They lost 2,500 union jobs. Two years later, local voters decided to buy the land and lease it back to Tinker. So this is an expansion of that idea,” says The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. “It also required some work in the legislature last year to make adjustments to the Quality Jobs Act. But it should all be worth it. They're planning to bring in 1,300 jobs to the facility to work on the Pegasus."

The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports Oklahoma City residents approved a $55 million bond issue in 2008 to purchase the property and lease it to Tinker. The latest purchase required a little bit of coordination.

The Oklahoma City municipal government contributed $23.5 million, and Oklahoma County put up $12.5 million. The Air Force paid $8 million. Cathy O’Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, said the investment will help revitalize economic development in the area. “This truly does bring it full circle,” said Bonnie Cheatwood, executive director at the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce. “There’s no way this couldn’t have a huge economic impact. It’s going to bring 1,300 jobs, to say nothing of spinoff interests. You’ll have other companies moving here, generating more jobs and residents.” Cheatwood said she expects that the business conference Tinker & the Primes held annually in Midwest City will be too large to handle this year because of the new business the new depot will attract.

During a news conference at Tinker AFB Wednesday, the Air Force’s  Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Ferguson said modernization and capitalization of the air refueling fleet is critical to nation’s ability rapidly project dominating air power to any corner of the globe.

“Tankers are the lifeblood of our joint force’s ability to respond to crises and contingencies,” Ferguson said. “The Air Force’s next generation aerial refueling aircraft, the Pegasus, is vital to our nation’s long-term national defense posture, and may put the global in global reach, global vigilance, and global power.”

Both the Air Force and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams said the property would be the best value for the taxpayer, and increase the base’s security.

“Besides the 1,300 jobs that will be created there before the first planes come in 2018, there will be other businesses located in the area to support those operations,” Brooks says. "The Air Force looked at a couple locations. Some were on the base, and some were off the base. Getting this land makes it all contiguous. It centralizes operations, which saves money.”

Trucks are fueled at the Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store at Interstate 40 and Mustang Road in Oklahoma City.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record
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The Journal Record
Trucks are fueled at the Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store at Interstate 40 and Mustang Road in Oklahoma City.

Love’s Expands Into Self-Storage

Oklahoma finance officials often say economic diversification will help the state weather the latest downturn in oil prices, and prevent a 1980s-style bust that contributed to the savings and loan crisis in energy-producing states.

Love’s seems to be doing just that. The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming reports the Oklahoma City-based chain of travel stops and country stores plans to expand this year, opening more hotels, and even adding self-storage facilities.

Kevin McCarthy, director of special projects in real estate for Love’s, said the new venture is another example of founder Tom Love’s entrepreneurial drive. He said a Love’s corporate employee owns a storage unit facility next to the Love’s Travel Stop at S. Morgan Road and Interstate [40], and many professional drivers were renting the units. “We thought this might be a good fit for us,” McCarthy said. The company will open a 62,000-square-foot facility in El Paso, Texas, in April, and a 43,000-square-foot facility in Sweetwater, Texas, in May. The El Paso spot will have 289 non-climate-controlled units, 228 climate-controlled units and 51-covered recreational vehicle-boat parking spots. In Sweetwater, the company is building 236 non-climate-controlled units, 112 climate-controlled units, and 57 RV/boat parking spots. Both are next to Love’s Travel Stops, but will have separate entrances.

Brooks says the company often buys more land than they need for their stations, especially if the previous owner doesn’t want to divide the property.

“"They're just looking for new things. Another thing… they're doing is looking at new locations away from interstates,” Brooks says. “They're building a travel stop and motel in Enid, and they're also looking in Guthrie. There's just not much land available near the interstates, so they're looking for new places, and they plan to open at least 25 travel stops this year."

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