Town hall meeting to address sequestration in Ft. Benning - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Town hall meeting to address sequestration in Ft. Benning

(Source: WTVM) (Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In the summer of 2015, the U.S. Army decided to move forward with its plan to remove the 3rd Brigade from Fort Benning.

As the deadline to vacate the base draws closer, city leaders, concerned citizens and veterans ponder exactly what this cutback will bring. 

These community stakeholders discussed the possible effects of this latest sequestration at one of two meetings held at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. The meeting started at 6 p.m. and ran for about an hour and a half.   

Starting April 15, around 3,400 Army personnel will leave the Chattahoochee Valley over an extended period of time to return home, travel to their latest post or look for job opportunities elsewhere. 

Matrix Design Group, a consulting firm in collaboration with an analytics company and The Valley Partnership in Columbus, GA, will work to compile a comprehensive study, analyzing how the loss of troops in Fort Benning will affect the area's schools, tax revenue, local consumption and employment. 

Residents, consultants, representatives from the city's chamber of commerce and city government officials exchanged ideas about how to best prepare for the potential change. 

However, all groups agreed one viable strategy involves keeping veterans in the valley, as employees in the private sectors who have the skills and training to work in multiple industries, like professional and business service and construction. 

Sal Nodjomian, the study's project manager and executive vice president of Matrix Design Group, said the cuts to Fort Benning are happening in other Army bases, as the U.S. Department of Defense continues to draw back on personnel and resources. 

"The community really needs to figure out what else it can do to lead job creation and other things to make this a vibrant community," he said. 

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said she wants to echo that sentiment. 

For her, the community has to devise a plan to pool resources for veterans' job training and retention in the community, so that the federal government will continue to invest in the Chattahoochee Valley area. 

"We have state-of-the-art facilities, we have excess capacity, room for growth," she said. "As other bases are having to close because they're obsolete, why don't they come on to Fort Benning?"

Residents who missed Thursday's meeting and either have questions, or simply want more information, can head to the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on Friday at 10 a.m.  to meet with city officials and the consultants to further discuss strategies and ideas. 

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