Fort Stewart may face downsizing
By NIKKI WILEY The Brunswick News
Brunswick could feel the impact of major cutbacks in base operations at Fort Stewart even though the military reservation is more than 60 miles away in Liberty County.
An Army report of hypothetical cuts designed to give military commanders and policymakers an idea of what the economic effect would be for the bases in the line of fire says a worst-case scenario is the reduction of 8,000 soldiers and civilian workers, the equivalent of about two combat brigades.
Analysts projected a loss of about $334 million in payroll that would cause annual sales to drop 21 percent in a five-county region around the Army post. The cuts were forecast to trigger additional losses of 965 military contractor positions and 791 non-military civilian jobs.
The loss of thousands of soldiers at Fort Stewart would be felt by many retailers, restaurants and those in Glynn County's tourism industry, said Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority.
"Those folks come down here and eat in our restaurants and support our local economy," he said.
Among the 21 bases that face being hit hardest, three are in Georgia -- Fort Stewart southwest of Savannah, Fort Benning in Columbus and Fort Gordon in Augusta.
Daniel Clark, who owns Imprint Warehouse near the front gate of Fort Stewart, says the impacts would be detrimental to Liberty County.
"If we were to lose even one of our four brigades, that means less people to eat in restaurants and less people that need my services," said Clark, who also serves as vice chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce. "It affects so many different people. The Army is part of the main customer base in this town."
Will Ball, a former Navy secretary tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal to lead a new lobbying effort to protect Georgia's military interests, said he's not too worried about the numbers because Army policy makers have yet to suggest any specific cuts. But he said Georgia's elected officials should take note of the big picture -- that the state could face deep cuts at one or more of its bases.
"I view it as a warning shot clearly that the Army is facing some uncertain waters, but the analysis and the specifics and the preliminary decisions have yet to be made," Ball said. "It's a shot across the bow. It brings the budget debate close to home."
* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.