Signatures still needed to help Fort Jackson avoid cuts - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Signatures still needed to help Fort Jackson avoid cuts

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For many businesspeople like real estate Jennifer Harding, Fort Jackson is worth fighting for. A loss of jobs on the Army post would have an especially drastic impact on her business.

"It means a loss of sales in new homes, resale homes, rentals," Harding explained. "It would be a big impact on our business."

Fort Jackson isn't closing, but the U.S. Army is discussing possible cuts and closures. One recent Army report noted that Fort Jackson could lose a combination of 3,100 working soldiers and civilians in the worst case scenario.

"If you think about the potential loss of 3,100 jobs," Harding said, "that's a lot of trickle-down revenue and a lot of jobs that really would affect this community."

Harding is just one of a few people who have been out collecting signatures as part of a campaign by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to get ahead of potential cuts.

"Their signature's needed for us to be able to take this to Washington and say how important the fort is to Columbia, South Carolina," Harding said. "They need to act as soon as possible. We need to have these petitions signed."

"Fort Jackson brings approximately 46,000 soldiers through every year," said Holt Chetwood with the Chamber. "Each solider as they graduate brings approximately two-and-a-half people to celebrate their graduation. They fill our hotels, they eat in our restaurants, and they purchase merchandise and goods while they're here. It has a $2.6 billion impact on an annual basis in the Midlands community."

The report provides a more relaxed assessment of the possible reduction.

It says the economic impact "would be minor and adverse on population, the regional economy, schools and housing."

The report goes on to say that the region "may be able to absorb some of the displaced Army employees, mitigating some of the adverse effects" because of Columbia's diversified economy.

Even with that prediction, the Chamber points to a $189 million impact on income for the Midlands, a total population loss of 7,733 as well as a reduction of $286 million in sales.

Five thousand have already signed the petition to support Fort Jackson, but the Chamber still wants 10,000 signatures to show Washington that the jobs should not be cut. 

"The importance of the signatures is to show the Department of Defense, as they go around over the next couple of months on a listening tour, meeting with community leaders in the community's where their forts are located," added Chetwood. "They want to know those specific communities support the soldiers that they support the army, and these signatures will be a strong message of support for the soldiers at Fort Jackson."

The Chamber says the petition ends on Wednesday.

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