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DETROIT-Dealing with closed military bases is never easy, but the current state of two Michigan facilities shows that bases can be developed for private use. In the Detroit suburb of Warren, the former US Army tank plant is now home to more than a half-dozen major industrial operations, a union training center, a community college branch and the headquarters for a growing white-collar business.

The old tank plant property–where tanks were built from the start of World War II through the early 1990s–was closed by an early 1990′s round of base closings. Shortly thereafter, the city purchased the land from the Army for $1 and had it designated as a state enterprise zone, cutting property taxes in half. Warren city officials say that while there aren’t as many jobs on the tank plant property, virtually all of the property is now on the tax rolls.

In Northeast Michigan, at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, township officials were boasting of a new business expansion, even as the BRAC commission in Washington, DC was deciding on closing other bases around the country. Phoenix Composite Solutions will renovate an 80,000-sf building it leases from the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority. The company designs, repairs, overhauls and manufactures airframes, components, doors, and wings for the aerospace industry.

The company will use a $1.1-million state grant to help pay for the work, which will include structural modifications to accommodate two autoclaves and two clean rooms. The project will triple the company’s employee count at the former air base to 150.

“The availability of grant funding for this project is critical to the growth of a significant local employer and continuing redevelopment of the former Wurtsmith Airforce Base,” township supervisor Robert Stalker says. “This investment will have a beneficial impact on a regional basis.”

Major tenants at the former tank plant include heavy metal manufacturers Noble International and US Manufacturing, which share a one-million-sf building, and the 200,000-sf office headquarters of Asset Acceptance Capital Corp.

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