Activist Bill Sulzman and a yet-to-be-named group are organizing opposition to the possibility of a new helicopter brigade at Fort Carson. The brigade would fill a hole at Fort Carson, which is the only major Army infantry post without an attached helicopter brigade. The new unit would provide integrated air operations and training for the 4th Infantry Division, headquartered at the post.
Sulzman told The Gazette’s editorial department that military spending affects our area negatively because too many soldiers pay income taxes and car registration fees to other states and stress law enforcement and social services. In listening to Sulzman, it’s apparent that he believes Colorado Springs would be better off without a military presence. It’s clear that he believes our tax base alone defines our quality of life.
It is amazing how wrongheaded this is. Our community should welcome the brigade with open arms as a key to economic growth and a more vibrant community.
There is no question that the troops and families from Fort Carson use community resources. But they also pay sales taxes, and a significant portion pays property taxes or rent a dwelling that someone pays taxes on to support the use of the resources. They spend their wages in our community and earn those wages protecting our freedom and wealth.
The implication that the military is a liability to our local economy simply does not hold water. Figures obtained from the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. details $1.8 billion in positive economic impacts for the 2008 fiscal year. This would have gone up considerably in 2009 because of the increased troop levels at Fort Carson. It will go up again in 2010 and go even higher if we succeed in persuading the Army to add the brigade. Those 2008 numbers included $1.17 billion in military and civilian payroll, much of which most likely was spent at local businesses that employ people.
The Army made direct local purchases of $192 million and spent $18.6 million to buy utility services. There was $428 million in construction; $4.7 million in tuition support; and $141.5 million in Tricare payments. These impacts do not include the businesses that are here only because the military is here. The ultimate gain is enormous.
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The economic situation in the past two years was bad enough. Think how disastrous it would have been for local businesses and for the folks who work in them if the $1.8 billion had not been here. If the military economic impact had not been here during the past two years, the last person out of town would not have had to turn out the lights. The utility company would have already turned them out for us.
So call your congressman and senators. Write a letter to the governor. Tell them we want the military here. Tell them we want the helicopter brigade. The economic impact is vital for our well-being. The troops and civilians who staff the various installations in our area, along with their families, are an integral part of the vibrant city we call home. We would be much, much less without them.
— By Steven K. Pope, president and publisher of The Gazette, for the editorial board
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