Tinker Air Force Base is Oklahoma’s largest employer and accounts for the jobs of one out of every 12 Midwest City residents.
On Sept. 18, the United States Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary, and as part of that jubilee commemoration, Midwest City is also celebrating its 80th anniversary and its close relationship with Tinker Air Force Base.
According to data from Greater Oklahoma City Economic Development, the air base has an annual economic impact of $3.4 billion. The overall impact, according to Tinker’s own numbers — including payroll — is closer to $5 billion.
“They are the largest employer in the state, and approximately 23,000 of those are civilian employees,” Midwest City Mayor Matt Dukes said. “They draw employees from 44 of the state’s 77 counties. We’d have to roll up the sidewalks of Midwest City if Tinker ever closed.”
The base began life as the Midwest Air Depot during World War II. The Air Force Sustainment Center History Office is responsible for compiling and archiving official Air Force documents, and they chronicle Tinker’s formation thus : ”…a dozen Oklahoma City businessmen formed the Oklahoma Industries Foundation to attract a bomber base, an aircraft plant or an air repair depot to the area. Their efforts proved successful when the War Department announced, on April 8, 1941, Oklahoma City as the site of a new air material depot…”
The base is now the state’s largest single-site employer with the aforementioned 23,000 civilians joined by 13,000 active duty military personnel. Midwest City, in the words of Dukes, has always been a military town.
“At one point in our history, one in five of our residents worked at or were otherwise connected to Tinker,” Dukes said. “That number is now about one in 12, as we’ve grown and diversified over the years, but our relationship with Tinker is no less vital.”
To maintain the relationship and further common goals, Dukes has biweekly meetings with Tinker commanders, and he and his staff attend events frequently on base.
“If we maintain things on this side of the gates, everything on the other side goes well,” Dukes said. “That means we have to maintain roads, infrastructure, communications, the joint police/firefighter training center, etc., but the relationship has been easy to maintain over the years. The base has had excellent community support, and we’re very proud of the fact that military personnel who get assigned to Tinker often choose to retire here because of the friendly, welcoming environment we’ve created.”