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Base reports nearly $261M in economic impact


Col. Douglas Gosney

Col. Douglas Gosney


Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee speaks during the Base Community Council Luncheon at Columbus Air Force Base on Friday. Lee shared her father's story during the luncheon. Her father, Charles Lee, became a POW after Rufus Ward Sr. rescued him from their crashing plane.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee speaks during the Base Community Council Luncheon at Columbus Air Force Base on Friday. Lee shared her father's story during the luncheon. Her father, Charles Lee, became a POW after Rufus Ward Sr. rescued him from their crashing plane.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff



Alex Holloway



Columbus Air Force Base's economic impact on the region has grown for the third straight year, according to a recently-released economic impact report. 


The report, which 14th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Douglas Gosney presented to the Base Community Council during its annual luncheon on Friday, shows the base created $260.8 million in economic impact for Fiscal Year 2016. The total is up more than $11 million from Fiscal Year 2015's $249.6 million. 


"What does that look like?" Gosney asked. "I checked my bank account and I don't have anything that looks like that, so I have a hard time wrapping my mind around what $261 million looks like. ...That's about $1 million a day for every work day of the year." 


CAFB's main economic impact comes through payroll and personnel. For FY 16, the base had $144.49 million in economic impact through payroll, for 2,625 people. The base saw an increase of about $10.3 million in payroll compared to FY 15, due to filling vacant civil service positions and pay increases stemming from airmen receiving rank promotions. 


"We didn't grow in the number of civilian positions that we have on base, but we were able to fill some of those that were vacant," Gosney said. 


The bases' annual expenditures accounted for $83.5 million of economic impact. Contracts, supplies and equipment made up the bulk of that total, at about $68.5 million. 


Of that, service contracts accounted for nearly $50 million. Service contracts are for work such as aircraft maintenance, custodial services, grounds maintenance and other services. 


Construction accounted $8.8 million in expenditures. FY 16 construction expenses included Independence Avenue and Perimeter Road paving projects, improvements to the base's fitness center, repair and replacement projects for the base's clay pipes and manhole covers, and other projects. 


Miscellaneous expenses, the vast majority of which is health care, accounted for $6.1 million of expenditures. 


Indirect jobs accounted for $32.75 million in economic impact. Gosney said indirect jobs are those that spring up in the community to support the base or the extra people it draws to the region. 


"These are jobs that come into the community as a result of the increased population of Columbus Air Force Base and our airmen living in and around the area," he said. "You need extra teachers, you need extra doctors, you need extra restaurant staff, just from the increased population." 


While not included in the base's economic impact total, the report also found that 5,804 military retirees in the area contribute more than $110 million to the local economy. 


While Gosney said he's pleased with the base's economic effect on the region, he said it's more important to continue to strengthen its relationship to the area. 


"As proud as we are of the economic boost that this base brings to the community, we're really more proud of the relationships and the support that we show for each other," he said. "Neither of us could be as good at what we do without the support from the other. 


"This is great, and it's nice that we bring a lot of money to the area, but we're really just proud that of those relationships. We're proud to be part of this community. We're proud that you welcome us into your homes, your schools and your churches and we can't thank you enough for that." 




WWII POW speaker 


Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee also spoke during the Base Community Council luncheon. Lee is the daughter of Staff Sgt. Charles Lee, who was captured in May 1944 when his B-17 "Flying Fortress" was shot down during a bombing raid over Nazi Germany. 


Charles Lee was a waist gunner on the same bomber that Staff Sgt. Rufus Ward Sr., father of local historian Rufus Ward, served on as a tail gunner. 


Shrapnel injured Lee when German fighters attacked the bomber, and Ward helped him and the plane's injured ball turret gunner escape as the plane went down. 


Both men were held in captivity until their liberation -- Lee in May 1945 by Soviet soldiers and Ward in April 1945 by the U.S. 104th Timberwolf Division. 


Sharon Lee also told the story of Julian Boggess, of Columbus, who was held in captivity for more than 800 days. While in captivity, he helped provide medical treatment to hundreds of captured Allied soldiers. 


Lee read a quote from Royce McMinn, another prisoner of war, who spoke of Boggess' work. 


"Me and the other men on that journey will never forget the courageous 'Doc' who fought so hard for humane and decent treatment of the men in his care," McMinn said. "A man like that should be a general." 


Gosney said he was happy to have Lee at the luncheon to tell the POWs' stories. 


"It's important. It allows all of us to be tied to our history, heritage and lineage," Gosney said. "It helps us remember where we came from, those who paved the way, the shoulders of the giants we stand on that allow us to do the things we do today. Certainly anyone who has a personal story makes it easier to connect to the things that have been done in the past."?




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