August 24, 2009 10:43:00 AM
Columbus Air Force Base is worth $321 million and rising.
That was the figure offered by CAFB Wing Commander Col. Roger Watkins Friday in a presentation touting the base''s impact on the local economy in 2008.
Watkins, a mathematician, admitted he didn''t know the full range of indicators factored into the final figure, but the total fits into a four-year upswing that has seen the base''s impact increase by nearly $100 million since 2005.
Despite slight decreases in the total number of military and contract personnel working on the base, Watkins pointed out CAFB continues to employ 3,000 military personnel in addition to creating 1,037 indirect support jobs to the tune of $109 million in annual payroll.
The $5.4 million decrease in payroll from lost jobs was offset by $5.1 million in payroll via 130 new military retirees.
The 6,660 local military retirees bring an additional $117 million in payroll to the region.
Military health insurance for active duty personnel and retirees pumps an additional $7 million into local healthcare.
Many of CAFB''s indirect jobs include contractors involved in a slew of major construction projects on the base.
Beginning with a new Mission Support Complex, CAFB is facilitating construction jobs as well as priming the local economy by contracting with Columbus Brick Company to provide an "official brick" to give the base a uniform facade style.
Next up are renovations to the unaccompanied officers quarters, a brand new child development center, new front and back gate facilities, 150 new homes and 110 renovated homes in base housing. The housing construction alone will be worth $25 million and increase base housing to 450 homes.
Watkins also pointed to stimulus projects such as a new $800,000 fire department at the base''s T-38 field near Shuqualak.
Much of the impact from the new construction projects will likely show up on CAFB''s 2009 report, but the base reported $24 million in construction funds for 2008.
First District U.S. Rep. Travis Childers was on hand at Friday''s presentation to offer his thanks to Columbus Air Force Base and his encouragement for continued growth.
"I appreciate the base''s impact on the First Congressional District and Columbus," said Childers. "I love to see dirt turning, whether it be farm land or construction."
Childers also sent a shout out to the new Mission Support Complex built with Columbus bricks.
"Thank you for letting that building look like the South," he said.
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