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Hooligans economic impact tops $97 million in F-M

MOORHEAD--The Happy Hooligans of the 119th Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard not only protect the nation, they have a $97.1 million per year economic impact on the Fargo-Moorhead area.

MOORHEAD-The Happy Hooligans of the 119th Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard not only protect the nation, they have a $97.1 million per year economic impact on the Fargo-Moorhead area.

A study released Friday says the Air Guard's direct spending was $51.9 million a year in the F-M area, using spending averages from fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Of that, $46.6 million was payroll and $5.3 million was for locally purchased goods, the North Dakota State University study said.

The economic effect is nearly doubled in the local economy, with the Guard supporting 764 full-time equivalent jobs, creating $63 million in personal income and an economic impact of about $97.1 million, the study said.

The effect is similar to that found in a 2004 study when the Hooligans still flew F-16 fighter interceptors. But instead of buying jet fuel to be burned once, the Hooligans now spread their cash around the community, which multiples the economic effect, said Dean Bangsund, a research scientist at NDSU's Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics. He co-authored the study with a colleague, Dr. Nancy Hodur.


Members of the 119th Wing now make up an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance targeting group. It helps identify and eliminate enemy threats worldwide.

The study was released at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce office in the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

"This study reinforces the tremendous value the North Dakota Air National Guard brings to our communities," said Craig Whitney, president and CEO of the Chamber.

Whitney said the Guard's missions are now classified and quiet, versus 2004 when people heard the daily roar of F-16s flying overhead, so it's important to remind the community that the Guard is a vital part of the community.

It also doesn't hurt to have updated economic figures, just in case Congress considers another round of base closures.

"There's no doubt that we always have that in our mind," Whitney said, but "we're certainly not panicking."

The Chamber has kept its Air National Guard Support Group together, Whitney said. While the group wasn't able to keep a flying mission in Fargo, the missions the 119th Wing now perform are a vital part of the nation's ongoing fight against terror groups around the world, he said.

"We believe because of the missions we're doing, we're not too concerned that we're going to be in that position of getting on a (base realignment and closure) list," Whitney said. "But certainly, the purpose of our group is to always be ready for something like that."


Bangsund noted the calculations didn't include the economic impacts of the Guard outside of the F-M area.

With 425 full-time-equivalent jobs at the Fargo base, the Air Guard is the 32nd-largest employer in Fargo-Moorhead, just behind Scheels, the YMCA and Discovery Benefits, and ahead of such firms as Bell State Bank and Trust, Eide Bailly and American Crystal Sugar, Bangsund said.

The Guard presence is expected to grow this year to 443 full-time-equivalent personnel, Bangsund said. That will add about $1.5 million in payroll, he said.

The Guard also generates $600,000 in property tax and local sales tax collections, the study said.

The 119th Wing "is a very important part of our local economy," Bangsund said.

The construction of a $7.3 million cyber-secure facility for the wing's intelligence mission is expected to start by May, 119th Wing commander Col. Kent Olson said. The local economic effect of the dollars used in its construction was not included in the study.

"That's an important development coming up," Whitney noted.

Olson said the 119th Wing has been in existence for 69 years. It recently received its 17th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, one short of the record.


He said the Guard has attracted "outstanding" recruits and he'd like to see more.

"We have seen a lot of kids interested in high-technology careers," Olson said. "We're seeing a lot of smart folks coming through the doors."

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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