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Mesa and Air Force collaborate to expand Air Force Research Lab into science and technology research center

Mesa, AZ -- Mesa City Council, at a special meeting this morning, voted to authorize City Manager Chris Brady to sign an interim lease agreement between the City of Mesa and U.S. Air Force for the possession and reuse of the Air Force Research Laboratory Mesa Research Site (AFRL), located between Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Arizona State University Polytechnic campus.

The interim lease will eventually lead to full ownership of the AFRL by the City, which will maintain it as a highly classified facility. The City will lease the property to tenants that require this type of facility. The City has reached an agreement with Alion Science and Technology, a defense contractor based in McLean, Virginia, to handle property management and business recruitment. The AFRL site is the only such secured facility in Arizona and is one of just a handful in the United States.

"Preserving a top security facility like the Air Force Research Lab gives us the ability to retain a significant number of the existing talent and attract additional high-paying, high-tech jobs," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. "This is another success story for the City and its partners to support aerospace and education, two of the pillars of the HEAT (Health, Education, Aerospace, Tourism) Initiative for economic development."

The Air Force Research Lab is scheduled to close by September 15, 2011 and the Air Force has begun the relocation of staff, equipment and operations to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The AFRL opened in 1969 as part of Williams Air Force Base. It is the last remaining portion of Williams, which closed in 1993.

"We have a great partnership with the City of Mesa for accomplishing the productive reuse of the Air Force Research Laboratory Mesa property. The redevelopment of the former Williams Air Force Base as the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and ASU Polytechnic campus has been a great success story, and we expect no less from this current effort," Air Force Real Property Agency Senior Representative Phil Mook said. "The interim lease is an important step in the reuse of this valuable facility, and we look forward to quickly accomplishing our mutual goal of property transfer by deed."

The interim lease is for two years with three additional one-year renewal terms. The lease will automatically expire when the property deed is transferred.

"This is a big day for Mesa and Arizona. We share the vision of continuing the legacy of this site by reusing this complex as the cornerstone of a science and technology research center including a wide range of academic and security industry organizations and projects," Science Foundation Arizona, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General (ret.) John Regni said.

The interim lease agreement follows Mesa City Council being designated as the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) in April, 2010 to prepare a reuse plan for the site.

"This agreement is another example of how Mesa continues to successfully make the transition of the Williams property into a major economic asset and a national model for the reuse of military bases," Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said. "The agreement to acquire the Air Force Research Lab will bring even more businesses and jobs to the Gateway area."

The interim lease agreement was achieved through the cooperation of several partners with the City of Mesa, including the U.S. Air Force, the City's Economic Development Advisory Board, Science Foundation Arizona, Arizona State University and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

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