Travis AFB’s economic contribution, innovative program highlights of Solano EDC breakfast

August 07 2017

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 08/03/17, 11:40 AM PDT | Updated: 3 days ago

A $1.65 billion annual economic impact to Solano County and the beginning of an innovation program were cause for celebration Thursday morning at a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast.

“I’m so excited about this program,” said Sandy Person, Solano EDC president, in reference to Phoenix Spark, a relatively new program designed to find creative ways to collaborate with the Department of Defense. “You’ve got to know this is my jam, this is what gets me fired up.”

She admitted that at times, with the fluctuation of the economy, it’s not always easy, but it can be “exciting what we can do when we dream big enough.”

“We take great pride in the relationship with Travis,” she continued. “There’s something special going on here.”

Col. John Klein, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing, agreed.

“You all have been a friend to Travis for many years,” he said and added that it’s much more than a partnership, it’s more of a relationship.

He admitted that standing in front of Solano County’s community leaders was “awkward” and explained that presenting the Economic Impact Analysis was in a way showing what Travis brings to the community.

However, Klein feels the opposite, he said.

“We receive much more from you and this is a platform to say, ‘Thank you,’” he said.

He shared with the Solano EDC members and guests that Travis Air Force Base contributes $1.65 billion annually to the county’s economy and while the base is engaged globally, it serves locally. The full Economic Impact Analysis is available online at

Travis is the Air Force’s largest air mobility base, made up of 9,500 active duty and reservists, 13,700 military family members and 3,000 civilians. Additionally, approximately 43,000 retirees and their families and 57,000 civil service retirees and their families live within 50 miles of Travis.

Klein presented a Power Point slide named “Our Family Throughout Northern CA,” that showed where active duty, family members, reserves and civil service live. The pie chart showed that 22 percent live on base, 20 percent live in Vacaville, 20 percent live in Fairfield, 7 percent live in Suisun City, 2 percent live in Dixon and 29 percent live in “other,” a combination of the cities of Rio Vista, Vallejo and Benicia.

The base commander added that moving forward, Travis will continue to strengthen community partnerships and focus on innovative mission enhancements.

A way of doing that is through Phoenix Spark, a program created to “bring tomorrow’s tools to the war fighter today.”

Perez explained that ideas generated at Travis by airmen in the field don’t necessarily come to fruition and fall on deaf ears. At the same time there are experts with the knowledge outside of the military that could help bring those ideas to fruition.

That’s where Phoenix Spark comes in.

The program, once called the office of innovation, wants to inspire a culture of innovation with the Air Force and develop a symbiotic relationship with government, industry and academia.

Perez said he was excited to come to Travis because it’s location in California is where the world’s smartest people come to work to solve the problems of people around the world.

One example, he explained that a senior airman came to leadership with a complaint about the man power it takes to change a tire of the C-5, at least five airmen. Since, the problem was brought to Phoenix Spark, the Air Force Research Labs is now in the process of developing tools to decrease the man power to change one tire.

“We’re in the early stages of something,” he told the group of community leaders. “Help us make this a tool for the rest of our country.

“If a city needs it, if an airport needs it, we probably need it too. We need that fresh set of eyes.”

Person added, “It all lies with us to do something about it. Solano County will benefit immensely from this.”