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Thousands of service members and their families will be arriving at Luke Air Force Base over the next six years, the result of a mission expansion involving 144 new fighter jets.

Mission Possible: As Luke AFB Grows, So Do Opportunities for the Region

Thousands of service members and their families will be arriving at Luke Air Force Base (Luke AFB) over the next six years, the result of a mission expansion involving 144 new fighter jets. By 2026, the population of the base is expected to swell to nearly 24,000—the size of a small city. It is important to plan now to accommodate and capitalize on that growth.

In 2012, the Department of Defense designated Luke AFB as the training home of the new F-35A Lightning II fighter jets. Expanding the Luke training mission is expected to grow base personnel by an additional 2,234 service members. Many of those service members will bring families. In fact, they are expected to be joined by an additional 4,717 household members, growing the base-related population to a total of 23,704 by 2026. 

Luke AFB Targeted Growth Management Plan CoverTo help plan for this growth, a soon to be released “Targeted Growth Management Plan” looks at existing conditions and future needs on and near the base.  The Plan examines a 20-minute commute shed from the base, referred to as the Study Area. Broader implications in the surrounding communities are examined as well. 

The Plan looks at four key areas: education, workforce and economic development, housing, and transportation. The Plan draws on recent data from the base and surrounding region, sophisticated modeling techniques, an outreach survey of local residents and current base personnel, and input from advisory group and focus group members.

“The defense industry contributes immensely to our economy,” said MAG Regional Council Chair Jerry Weiers, mayor of Glendale. “The mission expansion ensures Luke continues to be an important regional player, especially in the West Valley. The goals of the Luke Targeted Growth Management Plan are to support the base and leverage the opportunities presented by the growth in population on the base.”

The Plan includes the development of action steps local communities can take to manage future growth and demands for services. A small sample of findings by sector are included below.

Education
The report finds schools in the Study Area are well-positioned to absorb the anticipated growth in the student population, whether related or unrelated to mission expansion. While there are off-base early learning opportunities, the on-base childcare center is at capacity. 

Recommendations include increasing the number and accessibility of childcare providers that can accommodate the needs of military families with young children. There is also an opportunity to share information about the high-quality education options available in the West Valley with families moving to, or considering a move to, Luke AFB. 

Child Development Center

Workforce and Economic Development
Ninety percent of job impacts from the base are expected to occur in the communities of Glendale, Surprise, Goodyear, and Avondale. Jobs and training opportunities for military families are abundant in some sectors, not in others. Recommendations include providing personnel who are separating from the service, military spouses, and community members the opportunity to obtain desired skills and quality employment.

Workforce Counciling

Housing
The Study Area is projected to have an ample housing inventory at price points that should be attainable to incoming military personnel of all ranks. Measures are needed to ensure Luke AFB personnel and their dependents are aware of and are able to capitalize on the variety of housing options that are available, affordable and that meet their needs, whether on- or off-base. 

Transportation
The West Valley will experience significant population growth over the next several years, causing the roadways to experience additional congestion. The emphasis of the plan is to ensure growth does not negatively impact the base and its mission.  The additional personnel are not expected to cause regional roadways to deteriorate to unacceptable levels of service, except at one intersection adjacent to the base. The plan outlines several transportation strategies to mitigate the impacts of this congestion.

F35 Maintenance

In addition to the Plan, an interactive map will provide information on commute times, available housing, and educational resources. A formal launch of the tool is under development. Details will be announced this fall. 

Published July 31, 2020

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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