The Army is weighing its options should anticipated budget cuts come to fruition, and it could mean a big hit to the economy of not only the state of Georgia, but also Bryan County.
“With any reduction in the workforce at Fort Stewart, for Bryan County it is going to be a major body blow to the economy, payrolls and benefits that come with them,” said Josh Fenn, executive director for the Development Authority of Bryan County. “Those are things that are going to hurt — it’s going to hurt the retail, hurt the housing market, etc., so it’ll have a very big effect within the county.”
A report from the Army hints at how painful military cutbacks could be for Georgia. The cutbacks outlined in the report are purely hypothetical, and were designed to give military commanders and policymakers an idea of how severe the economic fallout could be for each base listed.
For Fort Stewart, the report outlines effects of a potential force reduction of 8,000 soldiers and Army civilians with a projected loss of more than $334 million in payroll, which could result in a 21 percent drop in annual sales in the five counties — Bryan, Liberty, Long, Tattnall and Evans — surrounding the post.
Fenn said roughly 1,500 military personnel and civilians residing in Bryan County generate a paycheck at Fort Stewart.
“That amounts to about $64 million in salaries, so that’s a lot of buying power that brings into the county,” he said.
But according to Kevin Larson, public affairs officer for Fort Stewart, the key word with the report is “hypothetical.”
“It’s a pre-decisional report, no decisions have been made,” Larson said, emphasizing the report looks at Army installations across the nation and does not specifically target Fort Stewart. “We will have to wait and see what the future holds.”
Paige May, owner of The Children’s Village at CrossRoads, said her business works with Fort Stewart in providing child care should facilities on post not have enough space.
“A reduction of 8,000 — that’s 8,000 families with children,” she said. “That would reduce childcare. That would reduce taxes. That would reduce schools. That would reduce everything.”
Regarding childcare, the reduction would likely mean more availability on post, she said.
“If military bases are meeting childcare needs, it depletes the families and it’ll deplete our business,” May said.
Russ Bynum of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read more in the Feb. 9 edition of the News.