Port Authority marks 25 years of Newark Air Force Base privatization – The Newark Advocate

Over 50 people gathered to celerate the 25th anniversary of the privatization of the former Newark Air Force Base at Heath’s Central Ohio Aerospace and Technology Center campus on Friday morning.
Michael Murasky, Boeing Guidance Repair Center site manager, kicked off the event with remarks about the location’s efforts of the past quarter century.
“Since this day in 1996, this building behind me and every person in it have made sure this country is kept safe by doing the work they do each and every day on critical defense missions for the nation and its allies under the banner of Boeing,” Murasky said. “This is continuing the Air Force tradition that was here from Newark Air Force Base before.”
In 1993, the closure of the Newark Air Force Base was announced. When the base closed three years later, some of its 1,400 employees and their families left to work at other Air Force bases, but some remained at the Heath campus to work for Air Force contractors at the privatized facility.
More:Port Authority takes closed Air Force base from uncertainty to stability, growth
According to Murasky, Boeing has about 600 employees in the Licking County community. Their site, he said, is responsible for maintaining readiness and modernization of the nation’s guidance, navigations and control systems, and more. He also touted the site’s impact locally through volunteer work and charitable contributions. Two grants were given to The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology and Mental Health America of Licking County.
Cindy Gruensfelder, vice president and general manager of the Missile and Weapon Systems division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, discussed how the Boeing Guidance Repair Center’s diverse portolio in the past and present positions them to continue supporting their defense partners and drive community growth.
“We have much to celebrate today, and much to look forward to in our next quarter century right here in Heath, Ohio,” she said. “There’s no secret to the success. It’s really quite simple and…it’s our teammates here at the site. All of you are the reason Boeing continues to be successful, not only here in Heath but across the Boeing enterprise.”
Carl Unholz, Air Force Metrology and Calibration Program director, reviewed the site’s history before introducing U.S. Air Force Col. Lea Kirkwood, program executive officer and director of the Agile Combat Support Directorate at Air Force Life Cycle Management Center located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“All of that (history) leads to this rich heritage that has evolved into our current present day partnerships with Boeing, Port Authority and Bionetics,” Unholz said. “There’s a lot of pride here in our collective contributions in the form of support services to all the services overall…”
Reflecting on the closure of the Newark Air Force Base, Kirkwood said standing down an Air Force base is a significant emotional event because there’s a lot of economic investment into the community.
“I think this is a real success story about how they transitioned from a brown field, a green field, if you were, to an actual Air Force station to an Air Force base and then back down from an Air Force base to a technology center, which is still serving the mission that originally started at,” Kirkwood said. “I think it’s a real success story as you look at the evolution of a base and going to a more hybrid style mission involving all the team members and stakeholders that have a part in that mission.”
During the event, Joe Zeis, senior advisor for aerospace and defense for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine presented a proclamation recognizing the 25th anniversary.
Bob Klingensmith, a board member for the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, also announced the Port Authority announced a scholarship program for individuals for who work the Central Ohio Aerospace and Technology Center campus, for their spouses and children who pursue majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the campus of Ohio State University Newark and Central Ohio Technical College for $50,000 a year over the next 20 years beginning this fall.
Rick Platt, president and CEO of the Port Authority, said there’s a lot of reasons the campus still exists and they could celerate the base closure and privatization 25 years ago.
“The reason this place came in the first place, the reason it is still here and the reason we have hope for the future – if there is one common denominator, it’s people,” Platt said. The 1993 announcement of the base closure, he said, came as a blow to the community, but they were able to transition to where they are today by asking how do they keep the people and the skills in the area. “STEM skills and the people are the reason that (the center) is here and it’s the reason it will remain.”
The event ended with a cake cutting ceremony after the announcement of the new scholarship program.