September 4, 2018

JBLM pumps $9b into South Sound economy

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is comprised of more than 52,000 active-duty military and Department of Defense civilians. Add in 45,000 military dependents and 32,000 retirees, and the population serviced at JBLM is nearly 130,000. That number represents a cumulative $5 billion annual paycheck spent primarily in the South Sound.

According to the recently released JBLM Regional Economic Impact Analysis, Washington State’s third-largest employer (behind Boeing and the State) and top employer in Pierce County has an economic impact on the South Sound between $8.3 and $9.2 billion. The analysis, focused on 17 South Sound communities in Pierce CountyThurston County and on Nisqually Indian tribal lands, considered several factors including JBLM payroll, operations and maintenance, defense contracts, tax revenues and more.

A joint effort

The economic evaluation is a collaboration between the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership (SSMCP) and the University of Washington Tacoma Center for Business Analytics (CBA). Bill Adamson, SSMCP program director, was struggling to secure funding for a JBLM economic study when he read about the CBA’s  Students-as-Adaptive-Innovators Program  in an issue of Teamwork. The Center connects teams of students with local for-profit, non-profit and government organizations for intensive, real-world problem-solving. With unprecedented access to JBLM, CBA Director and Professor Haluk Demirkan, Senior Lecturer Margo Bergman and Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA)  students completed the analysis over several months.

General analyses of the State’s defense industry have been done before, but this is the first full economic study specifically focused on JBLM. In 2010, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and when JBLM’s military population peaked at 46,000 troops, JBLM officials placed the economic impact of the base at just over $6 billion.

“The new figure is much more thorough and comprehensive than our 2010 analysis,” said Tom Knight, JBLM’s chief of staff. “While base-troop population holds steady at about 40,000, this analysis truly shows that a military base the size of JBLM is not just a major employer, it’s responsible for a significant economic impact across this region.”

BRAC is coming

That’s a big deal to the Department of Defense. The congressionally authorized Base Realignment and Closure Process (BRAC) is used to reorganize base structure to more efficiently and effectively support forces, increase operational readiness and facilitate new ways of doing business. It’s been 13 years since the last BRAC was conducted, and Adamson anticipates a military readiness adjustment is coming. JBLM and surrounding South Sound communities will be ready.

“This study will help make our case for the base,” Adamson said. “In fact, it could make a case for moving more operations here because of our strategic location and the considerable economic support the base provides South Sound communities.”

Port keeps things running

One big factor in making that argument is the Port of Tacoma, which helps keep military aircraft in the skies and provides a deep-water launching pad for military deployments. Supporting and sustaining the Port’s industry and infrastructure is paramount to JBLM operations.

“The Port of Tacoma and other Puget Sound ports are key to JBLM deployment operations,” Knight said. “Moreover, the pipelines that run from the Port of Tacoma to McChord Field provide aviation fuel vital to supporting global airlift, deployment of forces, disaster-response mobilization, and routine training to attain and maintain readiness.”

For more information about the JBLM Regional Economic Impact Analysis, contact Bill Adamson at [email protected] or 253.983.7772.

A full report is expected to be finalized by November 2018 and will be used to drive home the critical importance of JBLM in maintaining a strong, stable regional economy.


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