By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma County Commissioner Ray Vaughn handed over the ceremonial key to the GM plant to the Secretary of the Air Force Thursday, which was an important step in securing the base's future.
The utilities for the plant have already been transferred to Tinker and workers are removing the steel substructure that was used when the plant produced automobiles. The Air Force is converting the plant to house maintenance works.
"That process will take us until about next summer before we move the first workload in, which will be the TF-33 engine and some of our sheet metal work," OKC Air Logistics Colonel Doug Cato said.
The new space will allow Tinker to move operations out of several World War II-era buildings that are no longer efficient.
Secretary Michael Donley thanked the community for giving the shuttered General Motors Plant to Tinker Air Force Base. He called this a great day for Tinker and for the U.S. Air Force.
"For the county, a currently vacant facility will once again become a nucleus of productivity. For the Air Force, we will be able to consolidate functions that are spread out across several buildings here at the ALC, while enhancing the quality of the facilities in which that work is housed. And improving the working condition of those who are doing the work on the front lines of depo-maintenance," Secretary Donley said.
It also is expected to eventually add new jobs to the economy, replacing some of those that were lost when the GM plant shut down two and a half years ago, another example of Oklahomans turning a challenge into an opportunity.
"And if you go through our state's history, time after time, we have turned challenges into opportunities, and in this case, we saw it as an opportunity," State Treasurer Scott Meacham said.
Tinker officials said it will take about 5 years to move all of the operations over to the former plant. The building will still remain half-vacant after all the facilities are moved, but that leaves room for expansion.
Oklahoma county voters in May approved a $54 million bond issue to buy the plant and its 430 acres, and essentially gave it to the base for use in aircraft maintenance and repair.