MACON — Within the next five or six years, Robins Air Force Base has to replace about 6,000 civilian employees that work at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.

Local development experts and economists say that means a “perfect storm” of new economic growth — by filling those positions with new workers and by having a well-pensioned, highly trained group of retirees that will remain in the area.

“It’s going to have a very positive impact on the region’s economy,” said Ralph Nix, assistant executive director of the Middle Georgia Regional Development Center in Macon. “It’s at least equivalent to a new company coming in and offering 3,000 or more high-paying jobs with good benefits.”

At least 52 percent of the civilian employees — engineers, program managers, technical and subject experts and aircraft and component repair specialists — will be eligible to retire on Jan. 1, 2008. A year later, a total of 56 percent of the employees will retire.

That means more than 6,000 civilian workers — 60 percent white collar, 40 percent blue collar — will be out of the base’s gates by January 2012.

Most of the retiring workers will be 55 to 58 years old with 30 years of highly skilled training and will be receiving pensions equal to about 60 percent of their Robins salary. Many will be seeking second careers, said Roger Tutterow, dean of the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University.

“This will provide an army of retirees with good skill sets and that could be an attractive thing for a business wanting to relocate or for entrepreneurial ventures.”

The reason so many workers are retiring at the same time comes from a hiring freeze that came about from 1989 to 1998 when declining defense budgets and a debate over the future of air logistics centers.

“There was almost no recruiting from the outside. So we created a demographic bathtub,” said Mike O’Hara, director of civilian personnel at the center.

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