Fort Bliss, Beaumont infuse $6 billion into El Paso economy
By CINDY RAMIREZ | El Paso (Texas) Times | Published: March 9, 2013
Fort Bliss and William Beaumont Army Medical Center have an annual economic impact of nearly $6 billion in El Paso, according to a study released Friday.
The study found the two facilities employ nearly 62,000 military and civilian personnel and create a labor income of $4 billion.
The report was released during a news conference Friday at the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the study that was funded by the Hunt Family Foundation. The Institute for Policy and Economic Development at the University of Texas at El Paso conducted the study.
Rick Glancey, chairman of the chamber's Armed Forces Division, called the study "a report card of our community's efforts over the years in advocating for the
growth Fort Bliss."
Maj. Joe Buccino, Fort Bliss spokesman, said Fort Bliss accounts for 11 percent of El Paso's employment.
"This really is reciprocated by a community that shows overwhelming support for our soldiers and their families," Buccino said.
Buccino repeated a statement often made by Fort Bliss Commanding General Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard that he said is reflective of the study's results: "El Paso is Fort Bliss and Fort Bliss is El Paso."
According to the study, Fort Bliss directly employs about 37,000 people, including 29,000 soldiers and 8,000 civilians. William Beaumont Army Medical Center directly employs 3,350 people -- 1,120 miliary and 2,220 civilians.
The study also looked at the
economic impact of construction on post and at the medical center.
Construction activity has decreased "relative to the extraordinary levels" between 2005 and 2009, the study says, and estimated construction-related expenses this year will be about half of what was spent last year.
Total annual construction spending hit a high of $121.4 million in 2012, though the total expected to be only $55 million this year, according to the study.
Over the past three years, construction projects have had an average of $117.7 million in output impact -- the total value of industry production or the value of all goods and services produced within the local economy -- the study shows. Construction projects also created $32.6 million in labor income and generated more than 800 jobs, according to the study.
Tom Thomas, the civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for El Paso, West Texas Region, said the construction of the new Army hospital in far East El Paso will move forward under a new schedule that calls for it to open in 2017. That's about a year later than originally planned, he said.
A group of El Pasoans will head to Washington, D.C., next week to lobby for Fort Bliss.
Thomas pointed to past leadership from Fort Bliss, as well as local lawmakers from all levels in government, as key to having saved Fort Bliss from the ax of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 2005.
"If they had not been totally committed, we would not be standing here today announcing these tremendous numbers," Thomas said. "In fact, we might be here lamenting that Fort Bliss had closed."
Thomas and Mayor John Cook said that though sequestration may have some impact in loss of soldiers, and in turn, economic impact, it is not nearly as dire as the BRAC, when the post was on a list of possible closures.
Fort Bliss officials said the post will reduce hours at certain facilities and implement furloughs starting in April as a result of the sequestration, which could result in the loss of some soldiers in the long run.
"We are confident we are going to be able to show that exactly the opposite should happen," Cook said. "We can support military operations harder, better, cheaper than anywhere else in the nation."
Lobbying Department of Defense officials and selling El Paso as the most economically efficient region for military growth, Thomas said, could keep Fort Bliss growing.
"You add to that that Fort Bliss is the premier and best military training facility in the country and we have a very strong case for growth and not cuts," Thomas said.
A 2004 study by UTEP showed Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base had an economic impact of $2.6 billion a year when it came to increased sales volume, and contributed $2.6 billion to individuals' income in the region. That study did not look at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
Previous studies showed Fort Bliss had an impact of $1.7 billion in 2002 and $823 million in 1989.