Published Sept. 4, 2014
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce exceeded its goal in rallying public support for Fort Jackson by garnering more than 12,300 signatures on a petition aimed at preventing deep budget cuts at the Midlands installation.
The petition drive was launched in early August following a Defense Department study that indicated the U.S. Army might have to cut 3,100 military and civilian jobs at Fort Jackson by the end of the decade. The proposed cuts would eliminate more than 40% of Fort Jackson’s current workforce of 7,000 troops and civilian employees.
“We greatly appreciate the overwhelming response on behalf of Fort Jackson” said Carl Blackstone, chamber president & CEO. “This is a critical demonstration to the U. S. Army on how valuable Fort Jackson is to our community and to our partners.”
The packet of support letters will be sent to the U.S. Army. Local base supporters now are focusing their efforts on a strong turnout for a community listening session expected to be held early next year.
“We hear it again and again that the Columbia region is the ‘most military-friendly community in America,’ ” said retired Army Maj. Gen. George Goldsmith, who leads the chambers military affairs committee. “The collected signatures are a strong indicator for the U. S. Army and set the stage for our community listening session that will be held in early 2015.”
Local officials estimate the post has a $2.6 billion annual economic impact on the Midlands.
The chamber said the job losses would equate to:
- An immediate $189 million impact on income for the Midlands.
- A population loss of 7,733 soldiers, employees, spouses and dependents.
- A reduction of $286 million in sales, including sales tax receipts of $3.3 million.
- A reduction in Impact Aid program funding to Richland County public schools with the loss of approximately 3,000 dependent children of school age.
- Also, the loss of thousands of visitors who attend basic combat training graduation, which is held 42 times during the year.
Half of the soldiers who enter the Army receive basic training at Fort Jackson. It also trains 60% of the women who serve in the Army.
The Army said the potential cuts are a worst-case scenario and a final decision on Fort Jackson’s fate has yet to be made.