The area’s 27,300 military personnel stationed at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield serve as an economic stabilizer, typically muting the effect of economic downturns. While elements of the region’s military complex have been deployed numerous times in recent years, the economic challenges accompanying the deployments have been more subdued in recent years as the proportion of military family members staying in the area through the deployment has increased. The deployment of two battalions of the Third Infantry Division to Afghanistan was accelerated into early 2012, but the shorter deployment cycle meant that elements of the units began returning home before the 2012 holiday season.
The military facilities also provide employment to over 4,700 federal civilian employees. This figure has increased substantially in recent years, rising from 3,200 workers in 2006 and reaching a high of 5,100 in 2009. Pressure on the federal government budget and the defense budget contributed to a modest reduction in civilian employment in 2012. Altogether, the payroll for military and civilian workers is $1.53 billion.
In addition to payroll, the bases inject dollars into the economy by means of the construction projects. The Army Corps of Engineers oversees a large volume of construction and improvement projects on the posts. Contracts with tens of millions of dollars in work continue on numerous projects awarded in recent years. These expenditures pump money into the local economy to help support the regional construction sector. The projects also provide opportunities for regional suppliers and numerous businesses that indirectly or directly support the projects.
In order to foster the relationships with our military leaders and provide the necessary support for our troops, the Chamber has an active Military Affairs Council. The Council serves at the call of the Chair, Dr. Bill Cathcart. The Council conducts quarterly meetings which include an annual Military Appreciation Luncheon to collectively honor our region’s heroes.