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Diversify the depot

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As the war comes to an end, military bases across the country are scrambling to get a competitive edge and remain viable.
Red River Army Depot in Hooks, Texas has been able to survive previous rounds of base closures, but community officials say it's more important than ever to build partnerships and diversify the depot.  
With nearly 6,000 employees, the depot is one of the largest employers in Bowie County.

Their main mission is to maintain and rebuild military vehicles.

According to the Texas Comptroller's office, the depot has contributed 1.9 billion dollars to the Texas economy.

"It's an enormous economic driver for the region, something we need to protect," explained Bill Cork, TexAmerica's Executive Director.

Cork says the TexAmericas Center is a state agency approved to manage the surplus land and  property from two former rounds of military Base Realignment and Closures or BRAC.

Cork says TexAmericas works with private sector companies to expand partnerships for the area.

Now that the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end and there is a drop in military needs, he says there's more of an emphasis on promoting the value of the depot.

Automatic budget reductions aimed at decreasing the federal deficit are in effect, which means the depot employees are getting a 25 percent pay cut.  

Texarkana, Texas Economic Development Director Jerry Sparks says several months ago, the depot started scaling back it's workforce.

With another possible threat of base closings in the future, Sparks says it's important to get several years ahead of the storm.

Texarkana College President James Henry Russell says they have a partnership with TexAmericas and the depot to provide technical training to help workers transition to the changing job market.

"It's all about getting a qualified workforce that we all know leads to a better product and more efficiency," said Russell.
Area economic officials say it's important to hire consultants to keep to tabs on what's going on in Washington D.C.

They say it cost about $900,000 to save the depot in 2005 and right now they have $128,000 set aside in preparation for another possible round of BRAC.

"We want to see it survive and grow, we think we have a competitive advantage over other depots in the United States, so if there is another round of BRAC, we want to be on the winning side of that," said Cork.

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