Columbus leaders discuss the economic future of Fort Benning - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus leaders discuss the economic future of Fort Benning

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - Leaders in the Fountain City are choosing to focus on soldier retention and the long term impact of Fort Benning.

This is despite the current negative economic impact sequestration is having on the city. 
 
"With all the information and all the perceived negative news there's positive news too because we were able to maintain one battalion task force and that force has 1,080 soldiers in it," says Gary Jones, VP of Military Affairs for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
 
A total of 2,200 soldiers will be departing by the end of the year, 800 of which have already left as a result the local economy. The local economy has lost nearly 1,000 jobs and almost $153 million in sales, yet Columbus leaders believe there’s a prosperous future for their local Army base.
 
"We believe in fact we will be one of the recipients of the 2017 BRAC," says Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
 
In fact she’s confident Benning will be the first installation the Department of Defense considers when they're looking to build the Army back up.
 
"This is one of the only places that has training units and deployable units and special operation units and you have the land and you have the barracks, " says President of Ranger Joe's military supply store, Rick Weik.
 
Weik is one of several Columbus business owners feeling the hit of sequestration.
 
"The less customers you have the less they are going to be spending money and putting it back into the company," said Weik.
 
More than 30,000 Army positions are being cut nationwide, and the state of Georgia was hit the hardest, losing more than 3,000 positions.  
 
"The housing, retail and food and beverage establishments. The  retail and the food and beverages are actually a quarter of our employment in the local area and if we have a big hit in that area we will feel it in the local economy," says Ben Blair CSU’s Director of Business and Economic Research.
 
The Chamber of Commerce says a meeting will be held with city, state and military officials next week to begin preparations for the 2017 BRAC
assessment. 

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