CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee continues to be one of the largest employers in western Massachusetts, but the amount of money the base poured into the local economy has gone down by about $4 million in Fiscal 2014.
The 439th Airlift Wing contributed $221 million into the western Massachusetts economy; that number represents a 2% decrease from the previous year. Westover’s Chief Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. James Bishop cites last year’s automatic spending cuts to the federal government as a main reason why the economic impact decreased.
Westover’s funding was cut by about $13 million. “That means the reservists could not come out as much, and couldn’t do their job as much, so the cuts did matter; made an impact in training and missions,” said Lt. Col. Bishop.
Fewer people are working at the base now. In 2012, Westover had 3,900 employees, in 2013, 3,800 employees, and in 2014, the number’s down again to 3,600. Westover ARB has to brace for another round of cuts. Next year, Westover is scheduled to lose 8 C-5’s, 59 full time employees and 275 reservists.
Business owners near Westover hope something can be done to save those jobs. Aurora Bradway of Aurora’s Pizzeria in Chicopee said, “I would tell them that’s the last thing they should look at. They should not cut military funding at all. I know the base is full capacity and when it’s not because I can tell by the people coming in here.”
Despite the cuts, Westover will continue to be an important base. The 8 remaining C-5’s will receive upgrades. Lt. Col. Bishop said, “We can just go worldwide with multiple crews. Literally the world is the limit as far as where we go and what we do.”
The first C-5’s to leave will depart Westover in March. Those planes will go to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.