Influx of cash headed for Bay Area

HOUSTON The changes at the base in southeast Houston will allow it to hold up to 6,000 troops. Ellington Field is not what it was just a couple of years ago. There four new large buildings either finished or under construction and the changes are readily visible.

"Huge changes for Ellington," said CSM Paul Belanger. "There's a lot of things in the works."

Command Sgt. Major Paul Belanger is with the Army's 75th Battle Command Training Division. His entire team is now based at Ellington, part of the 4,000 to 5,000 military and civilians workforce here.

He said, "I think it's an exciting time for Ellington. There's a lot of things happening and it's growing exponentially out here. I think over the next year you're going to see a lot of changes to the local economy because of the influx of the employment in this area."

In just a few weeks the new visitor center will open -- so will an additional reserve building and a first of its kind battle command training center that will teach troops about to deploy how to coordinate a war, shuffling thousands through Ellington for weeks of training at a time.

US Army Major Bret Stark said, "We have it all centralized here. Then they come here which obviously is a huge boost to the economy as far as hotels and shopping and things like that."

None of this is lost, of course, on local business leaders who see the growth and the potential of Ellington, which will nearly double its current workforce in the next five years and has plenty of undeveloped land ready for either the military or commercial enterprise.

Dan Seal with the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership said, "You have this pristine airport that's ready to be developed right smack in the middle of a workforce which employers will need."

There are no hard numbers for what this means to the Bay Area economically, but with NASA suffering, any gain is needed and welcomed. In addition to the military and commercial expansion at Ellington, the facility is also competing with Rockford, Illinois, to be the home of a new campus for the famed aeronautical school Embry-Riddle. That decision could come sometime in 2011.

You can read more on this story in the Bay Area Citizen, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.

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