If you live in metro Atlanta, you may not understand the impact the military has in Georgia, especially south of the Fall Line. How big an impact? In Liberty County, home of Fort Stewart, it’s about $5.6 billion, and that’s only the contribution to the economy. There are also the soldiers and civilians stationed at the base who become involved in the local community.
That’s why several hundred of them gathered last week to learn more about possible plans to reduce the number of forces stationed at Fort Stewart. The Savannah Morning News reports that due to possible cuts imposed by the sequestration mandated in the Budget Control Act, some 70% of the forces stationed at the base could be eliminated over the next six years.
A possible reduction of around 30,000 troops prompted Army representatives to tour the ten military installations that could be impacted by the reductions. Area residents were eager to voice their support for the troops and the base.
“The ability to train, you guys know better than I do, you have that here; wellbeing, we’ve got that,” said Richmond Hill City Councilman Johnny Murphy. “I think another opportunity that you need to consider is this community and the chance to retire here.
“We’re probably easily one of the preferred communities in the Army. You guys should be interested in bringing more folks here.”
Coastal Georgia, said 10-year Army veteran June Jones, relies on the soldiers stationed in the area for income for small businesses to mentoring children.
“Our community is different from any other community,” she said. “We help each other; we are one family. We are Army strong. Help us stay together.
“There are so many things you help us with, and we in turn help you — we pray for you, we honor you, we support you and we encourage you day in and day out.”
Army officials promised to take the citizens’ concerns back to Washington for consideration. A decision on potential closings may be made sometime in 2015.
Because of the Peach State’s large number of military installations, Georgia officials have rolled out employment-related programs specifically targeted at veterans. In a story by Walter Jones in the Athens Banner Herald, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler praised the skills veterans have that are in demand by employers.
Labor Commissioner Mark Butler likes to quote a colonel who told him, “The military is a soft-skills factory. If you show up on time in the military, you’re late.”
Butler said when he meets with executives considering locating company operations in Georgia, they always ask about workforce quality, which includes more than just education and demographics, but also soft skills.
“We actively sell our veterans,” he said. “That’s a big part of our sales pitch.”
The University system of Georgia is working to offer new training programs, including a Liberty Center in Hinesville that is part of Armstrong State University. Its proximity to Fort Stewart makes it easy for soldiers and veterans to attend.
Ironically, the state’s efforts to provide training programs for soldiers and veterans may mean possible military reductions at Fort Stewart could be mitigated. Jones’s story has Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr saying that “there’s no foolproof way to keep a local installation off the list, but one of the best forms of closure insurance is to demonstrate appreciation for the military.”