No installation came out of last year’s round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decisions, seemingly, as well as Fort Benning.
The potential for growth in Columbus is so staggering – “an economic rocket that is gaining speed on a trajectory to change the economics of the entire region,” says Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Gaymon. The region is already prospering quite well as home to Synovus and Aflac.
Most important, says Gary Jones, senior vice president of military affairs for the Columbus Chamber and Valley Partnership, everyone is excited about the positive changes; and the mood on the base is upbeat.
“The military is spending more than $600 million for the Residential Community Initiative (RCI), replacing some housing units and remodeling others, but the installation’s total capacity remains the same,” Jones says. “It is a quality of life initiative that has received positive response.
“The region views this growth of some 33,000 new residents in our region and over $2.9 billion in construction on Fort Benning as one large economic development project. Both Alabama and Georgia counties impacted by this growth recognize this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and are both professional and enthusiastic in their approach in preparing for this unparalleled growth. Fort Benning is important to our bi-state region as ‘monthly’ it generates more than $110 million in salaries and $250 million in contracts.”
Clark Reality Capital, the organization that was awarded the RCI initiative, signed a 50-year agreement and its profit margin is directly linked to occupancy of the installation’s houses. So it’s to the firm’s advantage to build quality units that soldiers and their families want to live in. “If the soldier doesn’t like the quality of the housing, he could move off-post, thus negatively impacting the company’s profit margin,” Jones says. “Soldiers are very pleased with the installation’s quality of homes.”
The Army realizes that quality of life is a critical factor for soldiers and their families and it helps soldiers make a positive decision to remain in the service – “they know their family is being taken care of in a good quality home, and with this growth, there’s good employment opportunities for their spouse,” Jones says.
“Our Fort Benning garrison commander spoke recently to the Regional Civilian Military Council, saying he was very, very pleased with the number of families staying on Fort Benning while their spouses are deployed overseas, instead of going home. It speaks volumes about the Chattahoochee Valley Region’s quality of life – both in Fort Benning and the surrounding communities responding to growth,” Jones says.