COLUMBUS, Ga. – Fort Benning is in the process of cutting back the number of troops on post. This is a result of spending at the federal level. The Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting to discuss the impact of these cuts on our area.
Gary Jones with the Columbus Chamber’s Military Affairs Office says the army has gone from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers. It is now in the process of being reduced to 450,000 soldiers. Jones says this is causing Fort Benning to lose 2,400 to 2,800 soldiers.
John Mitchell with Synovus says he is concerned anytime Fort Benning sees cutbacks.
“Fort Benning constitutes a big part of this community’s business and a great source of employees so, we’re very interested in whatever happens at Fort Benning,” Mitchell said.
Sal Nodjomian with the Matrix Design Group began a study in 2015 looking at the economic impact of reducing military troops at Fort Benning. He says Fort Benning has about a $5 billion economic impact a year on the region.
“When you take nearly 3,000 military members and a corresponding number of dependents out of the economy, that’s going to impact the economy by about seven or 800 million dollars,” Nodjomian said.
The Matrix Group made a few recommendations including better preparing soldiers to compete for jobs in the area. Jones with the Chamber of Commerce says these recommendations go along with what the Chamber is already doing.
“It’s encouraging to see the recommendations that were developed strictly by them, not by us, that are supportive and encouraging of workforce development, and mission growth at Fort Benning,” Jones said.
Mitchell also thinks recommendations to diversify the community and paying attention to growing industries are encouraging, but says he’s more concerned about the immediate impact.
“Looking of course for things we can address immediately. Some of the suggestions they had were longer term and more difficult to move so, I was looking for sort of the next three years,” Mitchell said.
About 1,000 soldiers have left Fort Benning so far and the remaining 1,800 soldiers are in the process of leaving.
The Matrix Group’s study is a regional study including seven different counties. The final report is supposed to be ready in July. There will be another public meeting Tuesday, June 14th at Columbus Technical College starting at 9 a.m.