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Troop reductions drawing down regional economy near Fort Bragg

Posted February 6

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— As the number of troops stationed at Fort Bragg shrinks, it's leaving an impact on the regional economy, researchers said Monday.

The Department of Defense provided a $300,000 grant two years ago to study the effect potential troop losses would have on Cumberland, Hoke and Harnett counties. Consultants and experts from Fayetteville State University told Cumberland County commissioners that even the slight decline from 51,000 troops at Fort Bragg in 2011 to 47,000 now is being felt in the regional economy.

"That's already impacted our unemployment rate. It's already impacted our level of gross domestic product in the region, our sales in our stores," said Gregory McElveen, assistant to the dean of Fayetteville State's School of Business and Economics.

The decline has already surpassed what the consultants viewed as the worst-case scenario when they started the study: a loss of 3,000 troops. A decline of that magnitude also means the loss of 4,850 civilian jobs in the area and $12.1 million in tax revenue, according to the study.

"You need to make sure that you're investing in your economic development program and that you have policies that will work to attract other industry sectors to Cumberland County," said Crystal Morphis, chief executive of Creative Economic Development Consulting LLC.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Glenn Adams said the county is looking to diversify its employment base and take advantage of the expertise of troops leaving the military and making Cumberland County their home.

Cumberland County Schools has also felt the financial impact of declining troop levels. In 2012, 31 percent of the 52,000 students in the school district had military connections, but that has dropped to 24 percent, meaning the district has lost about $3 million in aid from the Defense Department.

"(That) impacts the overall abilities of schools to provide the level of resources that they need for the system, and in some schools, it could mean a reduction in future building," Morphis said.

Adams said the county is looking to the state for help.

"We need the legislature to step forth and put that money back into the lottery funding," Adams said. "Continue the general fund but also give back those lottery funds, which would help."

The study's authors also plan to present their findings in Hoke County and to the Fayetteville City Council. They will continue collecting data until March 14 and will have the full report available sometime in April.

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