What would the Columbus region have looked like without Fort Benning?
What if we woke up one morning and Fort Benning was gone? What if, just like that, the Army marched away from its 182,000 acres in the Chattahoochee Valley, or worse yet, Fort Benning was never here? What if the 120,00 soldiers, retirees, civil service employees, contractors and their families were gone?
Some would call it a doomsday scenario.
The economic impact would be devastating. Fort Benning, through its payroll to active-duty soldiers and civil service employees, dumps $105 million a month into the region, according to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. That’s $1.26 billion a year in direct economic impact.
“Face it, Benning is a big economic development driver,” said retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, a former Fort Benning commanding general. “I suspect it would still be a progressive town because of the kind of people who ran the town and city. But I am not as sure it would have progressed as rapidly.”
Money makes things grow, and Fort Benning has been a constant and reliable source of jobs and money for 100 years now. The Chamber estimates that the annual economic impact on the region is $4.8 billion.
Gary Jones, a retired Army officer who is the chamber’s liaison to Fort Benning, knows the numbers as well as anyone in Columbus. Ask him what happens if Benning is gone and his answer comes in economic terms.
“If Fort Benning ceased to exist today or was eliminated by BRAC, a very, very, very conservative negative financial estimate impact would be imagine a Columbus region today without Aflac, TSYS and CSU,” he said.
The impact would be staggering, but the impact could also stretch into quality of life, Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said.
“We would not have the broad national and international recognition provided by the fact that tens of thousands of young men and women come to our community’s doorstep each year to train at Fort Benning and then head out into the world to tell the story of Columbus, Georgia,” she said. “We would not have such a tremendous leadership pool with the likes of Bob Poydasheff, Carmen Cavezza and so many others who choose to stay in Columbus and make it their home. We just wouldn’t be the broad, diverse, progressive community that we are if we did not have Fort Benning.”