Chamber report: Springs’ military adds $5.93 billion to economy

Colorado Springs should prepare for a round of base realignment and closure by 2015, said Brian Binn, president of military affairs for the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.

The Department of Defense suggested two rounds of BRAC, one to start next year. But that isn’t likely. However, Binn said a round suggested for 2015 could happen.

“There’s no appetite in Congress (for a 2013 BRAC). But we should get ready for the 2015 round.”

Part of getting ready is telling the “compelling story” of the military’s success and economic impact on the entire state – and telling it to a Congressional delegation that doesn’t always see eye to eye, he said in a presentation Monday to the Colorado Springs City Council.

“To me, though, this is a bipartisan success story,” Binn said. “It’s important that we let them know that the military has a huge role in the state – not just in Colorado Springs – but in the entire state. We’re having that conversation, and we’re having it in a way that we believe will be more successful than in the past.”

Binn said the numbers speak for themselves: statewide, 73,179 people are employed by the six military bases here. That includes a $6.94 billion economic impact. Of that, $5.93 billion is in the Springs.

That breaks down to $2.2 billion at Fort Carson; $999.1 million at the Air Force Academy. Peterson reports its economic impact as $1.53 billion and Schriever reports it at $1.2 billion. Each post has a different method of arriving at the numbers, Binn said.

The numbers largely include the payroll at the facilities, including civilian and contract workers inside the fence. It also includes construction, retail outlets and housing. But even that doesn’t tell the entire story, he said.

“Depending on if you ask Dave Baumgardner or Fred Crowley, each of those military jobs brings an additional 1.6 to 2 jobs in the service sector,” he said. “That’s a lot of people employed because the military is here.”

Five of the six bases are in the Springs – Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station and the Air Force Academy. Buckley Air Force Base is in Aurora.

And the economic impact of the military in Colorado has grown during the past decade, Binn said. But due to budget constraints and the looming threat of sequestration, which could take as much as $1.2 trillion from the Department of Defense, that could level off.

“But it probably won’t go down,” he said. “We’re in pretty good shape. The Air Force has already done some trimming in its civilian and contract workers. But at Fort Carson, they’re getting ready for the Combat Aviation Brigade.”

The brigade could possibly come sooner than expected – even before the construction is finished, Binn said. That’s because sequestration cuts 10 percent across the board, and the DoD wants to get the unit in place before the cuts.

“I’m sure Fort Carson is working on getting the unit bedded down,” he said. “We’ll have the helicopters and personnel here.”

All the missions in the Springs – Air Force Space Command, NORAD, the Northern Command, combat brigades at Fort Carson – mean the Springs should withstand any future BRAC decisions.

But, still, Binn said, it pays to be prepared.

“We have to do things to let the military know that we want them here, that they’re appreciated,” he said. “For instance, Peterson needs more room to grow – we could work to make that happen.”