Fort Bragg Base Realignment and Closure Regional Task Force Executive Director Greg Taylor met with Richmond County leaders Tuesday evening at the Cole Auditorium to outline the local benefits of the base’s expansion.
He said that while Richmond doesn’t stand to gain as much as say, Cumberland or Hoke counties, it still stands to gain - in the economic development field particularly.
BRAC Richmond County Coordinator Jim McCaskill agrees, but thinks it will take time for the county to see the full benefit.
“Counties closer to the base are the ones who are seeing the infrastructure benefits, while those that are farther away are focusing more on the economic development impact of BRAC,” Taylor told the audience as he began to speak.
Taylor presented a slideshow which laid out subject-by-subject the benefits the county will see in the fields of education and workforce training, as well as economic development.
Chief among the economic development benefits Taylor outlined was a collaboration among the 11 counties to pool industry recruitment efforts.
BRAC Richmond County Coordinator Jim McCaskill explained the bottom line is that opportunities will come, but it will take time.
“It’s kind of a long-term investment,” he said. “What we’re finding, and the other counties around us are finding, is that all these businesses and new jobs aren’t just dropping out of the sky all of a sudden. They’re shifting the (military) personnel here, and history tells us businesses that support the military will follow.”
McCaskill said some greater factors are at play, that could make it take longer to reap the benefits.
“The economy is a big one,” he said. “Also, the national budget - as I understand it, there are several large contracts (in the BRAC region) that are ready to go, but they can’t let them because they’re not funded. It’s going to take some time, but we feel in Richmond County we stand to benefit.”
In the end, he said, Richmond County just has too much to offer not to catch some of the good things coming to the region.
“We can offer them cheaper land, a less expensive workforce, and other ways to immediately lower their operating costs, and help their bottom line,” he said.
McCaskill explained there have been more immediate benefits, such as on-going efforts in education and workforce training highlighted by Taylor Tuesday.
These include the sharing of technology and promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum at both the public school and community college level. Probably the best example thus far has been the Richmond County Schools i-3D program, which RCS Program Coordinator Jeff Epps addressed at the meeting.
“We’re going to be turning out engineers,” Epps said of expansion and certification planned to be offered for high school students in the county.
“Richmond County has really taken the lead with that technology, and everyone else in the other counties have kind of followed our lead,” McCaskill said. “I’m really proud of the way the schools have responded.”
Taylor also highlighted Pipeline NC, a resource begun to help wounded soldiers find jobs in civilian society, and now being expanded to include all those in the 11-county BRAC region.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.