Air bases 'worth �550m' to local economy

SUFFOLK's two American air bases are worth more than half a billion pounds to the region's economy, according to figures released by the US military.

Jonathan Schofield

SUFFOLK's two American air bases are worth more than half a billion pounds to the region's economy, according to figures released by the US military.

RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, which employ about 11,000 workers between them, contributed �555million to the local economy in 2008.

Business and community leaders in town's and villages surrounding the air bases said the financial contribution was even more important during a recession and the economic downturn would have been greater without their presence.


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Captain Lindsey Hahn, director of RAF Mildenhall's 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, said the �555million figure was based on the contribution to the local economy made by the two bases in 2008.

She said the sum included the wages paid to British workers on base, off-base spending by the thousands of American's employed there and materials, construction and materials bought by the US military.

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Community leaders said the financial clout of the two bases was vital to the local area.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said: “The American military is a very important part of the local economy and if these bases were not there, there would be a very a difficult economic environment in my constituency right now.

“The community relationships are very good and the bases contribute substantially to the national and local economies.”

Geoffrey Jaggard, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: “They are an important part of the local economy and we are pleased they are here.

“It is a large figure but it doesn't surprise me. Personally, I think we are fortunate having them here.”

RAF Lakenheath has 6,702 people based there, including 955 British workers. RAF Mildenhall has 825 British workers out of a total workforce of 4,256.

Steve Peters, from the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Management Group, said the US air bases were a huge asset to the area and trade in the town was clearly boosted by their presence.

“There is lots of interaction between the service personnel, their families and the town which has been a very positive for everyone involved,” he added.

Despite the value to the region's economy, the �555million figure is down on previous years by almost a quarter.

In 2007 the financial boost from the bases was estimated at �826million.

Capt Hahn said the impact of the bases on the local economy had gone “down across the board, particularly in construction”.

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