Partnering is vital to Air Force and communities Published July 20, 2011 By Susan Wolbarst Air Force Real Property Agency NORFOLK, Va (AFNS) -- Speaking at the opening of the annual conference of the Association of Defense Communities July 19, Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, stressed the importance of Air Force partnerships with local communities as well as with private sector businesses. "These partnerships become more critical as we seek to employ private sector funding to construct and operate renewable energy projects and to make our installations and surrounding communities less reliant on the national electric grid, or dealing with encroachment challenges that can negatively impact the Air Force's ability to train and fight," Yonkers told the crowd of about 500 attendees from military communities around the country. He cited Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota as a "great example" of effective partnerships at work. "The base and the community are looking at consolidating community services, such as police and fire protection, both inside and outside the base boundary," he said. "Recently the Air Force transferred 53 acres of excess land, at no cost, to the Ellsworth Development Authority, which plans to hand over a 20-acre parcel to the school district for a new elementary school. The school will serve, predominantly, military children. "The city of Box Elder will develop the remaining 33 acres into a City Center," he added. "Last year the Ellsworth Development Authority began the purchase of 230 acres to provide an alternative location for people living in mobile home parks located in the clear zones near Ellsworth (AFB). "The message here is 'leave no good idea on the table,'" Yonkers said. "As budgets get tighter, we need to aggressively pursue more of these common sense solutions."