Those who follow the fortunes of Joint Base Lewis-McChord were neither downcast nor especially depressed at the news Tuesday concerning force cutbacks and South Sound’s loss of thousands of troops over the next few years.
• “We don’t exactly know the timing, and that will make a great difference,” said Gary Brackett, business and political manager at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” he said. “You’re not talking about everyone being let out of the Army. There will be reassignments. How it will impact the soldiers and how it will affect the economy is now an unknown.”
Brackett said he was not surprised at the news.
“I was disappointed,” he said.
• Lakewood communications director Jeff Brewster noted that losing a Stryker brigade would have a similar effect as having a Stryker brigade deployed.
“I’m not sure we’re going to see much impact at all, simply because we’ve been accustomed to at least having a brigade deployed, or more than one brigade, for a decade. We are going to be disappointed in losing the Community Connector program, which we’ve had with the 4th Stryker Brigade since 2006.”
Other effects will become clear when facts arrive.
“We’re not expecting a drop-off on retail sales necessarily,” Brewster said.
• “My first response: I’m not surprised,” said Fred Wright, executive director of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce.
Wright said his community counts the state’s highest per-capita rate of resident military personnel living within the city.
“It will have an impact on our community, but we’ll have to see the timetable. It may be a nonevent,” he said.
But still …
“Any time you’re taking people from our community, it’s not a good thing.’
• Jim Vleming, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, said the effect will depend on the timing.
“What time period? … I’m not as concerned when we talk about something happening over a period of time. It doesn’t concern me as much as if they took 4,500 people overnight.”
Some military personnel who leave the service, he said, may choose to stay in the region and rejoin the job market as civilian employees.
“I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom at this point,” he said. “I think over a period of time things tend to fill in the gaps and it’s not quite the impact it would have been. Things fill in and the sun comes up in the morning.”
• The Army itself made some impact predictions in a January report by the Environmental Command. The report postulated a drawdown of 8,000 troops at JBLM and noted, “Overall impacts to socioeconomics … are considered to be less than significant. Minor impacts are anticipated to economics and off-post housing while beneficial impacts are anticipated for on-post housing.”
The total economic loss to direct and indirect sales in the area would hit 2.61 percent, the report stated. State sales tax revenues “would decrease by approximately $34.32 million” because of reduced sales.
A loss of 8,000 troops — which is nearly double the current estimated drawdown — would cause the loss of 786 military contract jobs, and 1,753 jobs would be lost because of reduction in demand for goods and services, according to the Army report.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535