Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, TX
PHOTO CREDIT: Antony Boshier
For more than half a century, Laughlin Air Force Base has kept the people of Del Rio, and the local economy, looking up.
Originally opened during World War II, Laughlin AFB became a prestigious Strategic Air Command base in 1957 and then a pilot training facility in 1962. Though its mission is to get undergraduate pilots for the United States and allied nations "mission-ready," Laughlin has been an integral part in shaping Del Rio's economy and played a significant role in developing the city’s personality.
“In a lot of ways, Del Rio is what it is because of Laughlin Air Force Base,” says Sid Cauthorn, president and CEO of The Bank & Trust. “It’s a very important part of our community.”
In 2009, Laughlin directly employed 2,642 people and indirectly generated employment for 1,436 others. Laughlin’s payroll was nearly $96 million, and the base provided a total estimated economic impact of more than $217 million.
“Laughlin could not have accomplished these great things without the support of the local community,” says Commander Col. Michael Frankel. “Our partnership ensures that we provide the best specialized undergraduate pilot training for the United States and its allies, and ensures that our airmen are ready to support Air Expeditionary Forces worldwide.”
But Cauthorn, who has been with Bank & Trust since 1993, says there is a value to Laughlin that goes beyond mere numbers. The base also has a cultural impact on Del Rio, from the popular air show held there each year to the national influence Laughlin provides.
“The people at Laughlin come in from all over the country,” Cauthorn notes. “While people serve at Laughlin, they become a part of our home. They are friends, neighbors and citizens that bring a diversity to our community that we all enjoy. From their specialized skill sets to their significant economic impact, Del Rio would not be the same without our friends at Laughlin Air Force Base.
“These people support a lot of local restaurants and businesses in town. Hardware stores and auto parts stores do real well here, because a lot of those Air Force people work on their cars and homes.”
The Del Rio Chamber of Commerce has long recognized the importance of Laughlin. The Chamber fought to keep the base open in 1962 when facing closure. In 1975 it formed the Military Affairs Association to promote the bond between the community and the base.
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