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Columbus air base economic impact soars to $343 million






Nathan Gregory



How much does Columbus Air Force Base mean to the local economy? $900,000. Every day. 


After two years holding steady around the $260 million mark in 2010 and 2011, the Columbus Air Force Base has reported an $82 million spike in economic impact on the Golden Triangle area from $261.9 million in 2011 to $343.2 million in 2012. 


That number is by far the highest experienced in the past five fiscal years and nearly $54 million more than the second highest figure during that time -- $287.8 million in 2009. 


Lt. Shedrick Bridgeforth told the Base Community Council on Friday that amount averages out to about $900,000 per day. 


"2012 was the largest grossing year in the last five years, and this is probably due to construction (of the base's central runway and a medical clinic), which this year accounts for $67.2 million of that $343.2 million total," Bridgeforth said.  


The annual report was calculated by looking at how much the base, Lowndes County's largest employer, spent on annual expenditures ($150 million), personnel and payroll ($143.8 million) and indirect jobs ($49.5 million). 


Of 3,622 total personnel, 1,591 are military while 1,297 are contract personnel. Rounding out the total were 487 civil service members, 141 employees paid from non-appropriated funds, 57 Army and Air Force Exchange Services employees, 38 commissary employees and 11 credit union employees. 


Along with the $67.2 million spent on construction, CAFB spent $75.4 million on contracts, supplies and equipment, including $53 million in services contracts. $7.46 million of the annual expenditures portion was spent on miscellaneous expenditures, 99 percent of which was attributed to Health Care. 


Col. James Sears said construction of CAFB's main runway has a direct correlation to the large overall number and he does not expect to see nearly the same amount in the 2013 fiscal year. 


"We're very proud of the runway. We're proud that it was a local company (Pheba-based Babcock Construction) doing the work," Sears said. "I need to make sure everybody has an expectation that I would not expect starting with the year we're in right now, I would not expect 2013's bar to be as tall as any (of the previous five years). When we do this next year I'd be surprised to see $250 million on the bar." 


Sears said even with the $62 million construction boost removed, CAFB has a larger area impact than other specialized undergraduate pilot training bases, including Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas and Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which reported economic impact figures for 2012 at $237.5 million and $240.1 million, respectively.


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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