Coastal Bend Thrives on its Military Might
The Coastal Bend of Texas is known for its tropical climate, Gulf of Mexico beaches, wide-open expanses, and intriguing culture and history. Yet for all its uniqueness, the Coastal Bend is perhaps proudest of its long tradition as a haven for major military installations and military-related businesses.
Major Military Presence
Major installations include the Naval Air Stations in Corpus Christi and Kingsville and the Corpus Christi Army Depot. Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is headquarters for the Chief of Naval Air Training. Additional federal presence in the area includes the Marine Aviation Training Support Group, Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi, Armed Forces Reserve Support Center and the U.S. Coast Guard.
These facilities are supported by growing private military-related enterprises, such as Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance in Bee County and McTurbine Inc., a helicopter repair company in Corpus Christi.
Dick Messbarger, executive director of the Kingsville Economic Development Council, says the military’s regional economic impact has been measured at $3.6 billion annually, including $458 million a year in direct economic benefit to Kingsville, population 25,000, the county seat of Kleberg County and home to Naval Air Station Kingsville.
The air station, commissioned in Kingsville in 1942, employs about 1,800 civilians from Kleberg and surrounding counties. “It’s a huge operation that has a lot of spillover. We have benefited so much from Naval Air Station,” Messbarger says. “We are so proactive on the military. Just about everything we do, we do in partnership with the military base.”
Military Affects More Than Economy
Economic development officials make a living talking up a region’s benefits as a means of attracting business. But Messbarger says the military’s presence in Coastal Texas plays another important role not limited to economics. Many military retirees tend to remain in the area after they leave active duty. For instance, two of the last five mayors of Kingsville were Navy pilots, Messbarger notes.
“It’s difficult to measure the impact of the base once these retirees leave the military and go into the community, but it’s been a huge benefit. They work at our banks, they’ve opened businesses in town, they’ve helped improve the schools. They contribute to the economic benefit of the region, but they also contribute to the quality of life,” Messbarger says.
The Corpus Christi Army Depot employs about 3,500 of the 5,500 workers at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, where it is housed as the Army’s lead installation for helicopter repair, overhaul and maintenance. The depot contributes about 12 percent of the local Corpus Christi economy, with a $2.171 billion economic impact, says depot spokesman Ed Mickley.
In Bee County, activity is bustling as well with private military-related businesses finding homes at the Chase Field Industrial & Airport Complex, the former Chase Field Naval Air Training Facility that was closed in 1993. Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance repairs and modifies helicopters at a 200,000-square-foot hangar at Chase and is growing its 200-person workforce.
Joe B. Montez, executive director of the Bee Development Authority, which owns Chase Field, says Sikorsky’s presence is vital to the county's future.
“We have a lot of hopes for growth in the future at Chase Field," Montez says. “We have good, adequate, sound and safe facilities and plenty of space. Your community environment for housing, schools, education and community events all play a key into the development of a good workforce. We have a very good friendly community.”Coastal Bend Military Installations
NAVAL AIR STATION CORPUS CHRISTI
Commissioned in March 1941, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is part of the Navy Region Southeast, which has operational responsibility for 19 installations within the southeastern United States and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Naval Air Station Kingsville in the Coastal Bend region is also a part of Navy Region Southeast.
The overall command assignment of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is pilot training. The Chief of Naval Air Training is headquartered at the installation to oversee the training operations throughout the Southeast Region, from Texas to Florida. Under CNATRA's (Chief of Naval Air Training) command are five training air wings, 16 training squadrons, more than 14,000 Navy and civilian personnel, the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Naval Aviation Schools Command and the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
CORPUS CHRISTI ARMY DEPOT
The Corpus Christi Army Depot is the largest industrial employer in South Texas. A leader in Army repair, overhaul and maintenance of helicopters, the depot employs more than 2,700 civilians and has an annual payroll of $162.6 million. The mission of the facility is to perform depot maintenance on Army aircraft and aeronautical equipment, train military personnel in aeronautical depot maintenance for assignment worldwide and to prepare aircraft for overseas shipment. The depot also distributes overhauled items and maintains a mobilization base capable of rapid expansion in the event of a national emergency.
NAVAL AIR STATION KINGSVILLE
Naval Air Station Kingsville is one of the U.S. Navy’s two premier locations for jet/strike aviation training. The base’s primary mission is to train tactical jet pilots for the Navy and Marine Corps. To accomplish its mission, NAS Kingsville is home to Training Air Wing TWO and several tenant military and civilian commands with a total complement of approximately 300 officers, 200 enlisted, 350 civilian personnel and 625 contract maintenance personnel.
The base’s Operations Department operates the airfield and provides services to support operations of activity, tenant and transiting aircraft, firefighting functions, and operates air traffic control and air terminal functions among its duties.