Army Tries New Ways to Support Rock Island Arsenal & JMTC

May 15, 2018

The Army and elected officials are shifting gears to support jobs and economic development on Arsenal Island. For 17 years, the federal government spent millions of dollars on the Arsenal Support Program Initiative, or ASPI.

But Michelle O'Neill reports over the winter, funding ran out and the program ended.

In 2001, the Arsenal Support Program Initiative became law, giving the Army permission to lease manufacturing space at its three arsenals to private companies. That included the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center in the Quad Cities.

Tim Frye has been the Site Manager of the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group since ASPI began. He says the goal was to reduce huge overhead expenses that prevented the factory from offering competitive bids. But then, the 9-11 terrorist attacks changed everything. And the group began leasing office space in other buildings on the island.

Over the years, Arsenal Island tenants paid the Army $7 million in rent under ASPI. But Frye says since most of the buildings had been empty a long time, the under-utilized spaces had to be renovated. Overall, Frye says the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group helped the Army renovate 365,000 square feet into Class A office space.

And at the peak, 46 tenants rented offices on the island. That off around 2011.

Last year, East Moline Congresswoman Cheri Bustos wrote a measure called the "Check Before You Rent Act" as part of the defense spending bill. She says it's why 100 white-collar, good-paying jobs are coming to the arsenal. And a measure called, "Make It or Buy It" requires the defense department to first consider the Army's own arsenals for defense contracts. 

L-R, Rep. Bustos, Sen. Durbin, Under Sec of the Army, Ryan McCarthy & General Gus Perna of the Army Materiel Command (file 4/13/2018)
Credit Michelle O'Neill / WVIK News

Recently, Bustos and US Senator Dick Durbin touted "Make It or Buy It" when the Under Secretary of the Army visited Arsenal Island and toured the manufacturing center.

Bustos was pleased to hear the Under Secretary, Ryan McCarthy, say it would be "unconscionable" to close or relocated a place like the JMTC. She says, "I think we're in a good place right now."