LEESVILLE, La.--Fort Polk Progress, in response to the Department of the Army's Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI), released in June, has engaged the services of Business Development Advisors (BDA) to analyze: 1) the economic impact of Fort Polk on surrounding communities in Louisiana, and 2) the expected negative impact of a proposed force reduction of 6,500 troops and Army civilians on the same locations.
BDA's analysis builds on the work performed in 2013 for Louisiana Economic Development, in which BDA, working with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, calculated the economic impact of defense spending and defense contracting in Louisiana and in eight regions of the state. BDA was also asked to review and comment on the socioeconomics analysis prepared for the Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessmen (SPEA), which also assessed the potential impact of a loss of 6,500 Army positions.
"Considering direct, indirect and induced effects, our preliminary findings are that a force reduction of 6,500 troops and Army civilians at Fort Polk would cost the state of Louisiana $864 million in statewide sales; $567 million in income; $30 million in state and local taxes; and nearly 11,000 total jobs," said Michael Reese, chairman of Fort Polk Progress.
"Despite the threat of a troop reduction at Fort Polk, Leesville is steadily making improvements to infrastructure to support a new school that will serve military families and future growth at Fort Polk," said Leesville Mayor Rick Allen. "A loss of 8,000 jobs would continue to perpetuate a boom and bust cycle that prevents Leesville from attracting the sort of retail and recreational opportunities desired by military families."
"We're proud to be home to many military families," said City of DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts. "DeRidder has been committed to improving quality of life though city-wide projects that enhance education, employment opportunities and recreational opportunities. We hope that the Army would take into consideration the investments we continue to make and the devastating impact the losses of $622 million in sales and $408 million in income for Beauregard and Vernon parishes would have."
"The Vernon Parish Police Jury consistently invests in making the improvements that the military has specifically requested us to make in the area surrounding Fort Polk," said Jury President Jim Tuck. "A reduction of 6,500 troops at Fort Polk would cost $22 million in state and local taxes, which would certainly influence our ability to continue investing in quality of life projects."
Within the 5-parish region of impact for Fort Polk, which includes not only Vernon and Beauregard but also Rapides, Sabine and Natchitoches parishes, the same force reduction would cost:
$713 million in sales (output)
$468 million in income
$25 million in state and local taxes
and over 9,000 total jobs
"Local and regional companies will find it difficult to replace lost business, and the regional economy does not appear to have the capacity to generate new jobs to replace those lost by reductions at Fort Polk," according to the report.
Force reductions at Fort Polk will also affect the health care and education sectors in the region, with a loss of $4.5 million in federal impact aid and $15.5 million in state funds.
BDA asserts that the SPEA understates the socioeconomic impact of a force reduction of 6,500 at Fort Polk.
"We...believe the impact will be even greater than estimated," the report states. BDA also asserts that the SPEA should acknowledge the burdens of these losses to the communities that serve Fort Polk and points out weaknesses in the approach used in the SPEA, which caused the underestimation.
The model used in the SPEA, according to BDA, did not include operational and construction spending; in addition, BDA was unable to verify the sources of some figures cited in the SPEA. The SPEA also does not consider the loss of income and property taxes and makes several assumptions in its tax calculation that lower the impact.
"We conducted a series of calculations that suggest the actual tax impact would likely be at least 5 times greater than that suggested by the SPEA," the report states.
In addition to combating the information contained in the SPEA, Fort Polk Progress and the local communities continue to campaign for public support during the SPEA's official commenting period, which ends August 25.
"All communities in this area have major sign up drives going on at different scheduled times," said Reese.
Signed letters can be dropped off at the City of Lake Charles, the Central LA Chamber of Commerce, the Cities of Alexandria and Pineville, the England Authority (England Airpark), Central LA Economic Development Alliance and North Rapides Business and Industry Alliance, who are all in support of the letter signing campaign, as are many businesses located throughout the region.
In addition, the City of DeRidder has staffed the Amerisafe Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and will do soa gain from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for those who wish to sign letters. The pavilion is located on Washington Street in downtown DeRidder. Residents can drop by or simply drive through to sign letters. There will be signs and balloons pointing the way, and KVVP radio personality Rick Barnickel will be broadcasting live in the downtown during these times.
Beauregard residents can also drop off their signed letters at DeRidder City Hall or the Beauregard Chamber of Commerce at any time during regular business hours until Aug. 25.
The City of Leesville, the Mayor's Women's Commission and the Vernon Parish Police Jury will host a letter signing event from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, in the parking lot of First United Pentecostal Church of Leesville, located at 101 Nolan Trace in Leesville and then again from 4-6 p.m. the same day.
The church parking lot offers a convenient drive-in, drive-out location. Letter signers won't even have to exit their vehicles.
Local radio personality Rick Barnickel with KVVP will broadcast live from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Boomer with KJAE will broadcast the 4-6 p.m. event.
The Vernon Parish Tourism Commission will host a table in the downtown Leesville area from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug 22, while the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce will host two tables at Market Basket from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"Many military communities being contemplated for cuts will be able to demonstrate significant economic losses," said Reese. "However, when studies like our economic impact report are backed up by thousands of comments from the community, it reinforces to the Army what the true disproportionate negative impact is."
For more information or to download a letter to sign, please click here.
Fort Polk Progress is a regional community organization that takes a proactive stance toward Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) by maintaining relationships and partnering with decision makers in Congress, at the Pentagon and at the state level, ensuring that the most up to date information concerning Fort Polk and the surrounding communities is used in decisions concerning the base. In addition, Fort Polk Progress actively markets the base to the military as the most cost effective place to provide soldiers with the best training possible and strives to help ensure the best possible quality of life for soldiers, civilians and their families. Most recently, Fort Polk Progress has spear-headed an Education Initiative, which acknowledges exceptional educational achievements in the region and pursues continued excellence in education for military families throughout the region.
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