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Fort Drum boosted North Country economy by $1.6 billion last year

Julia Botero
WRVO news

A report put out by Fort Drum quantifies how much of an impact the base has on the North Country's economy. Based on military figures, the study says the base pumped more than $1.6 billion into Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties last year. 

Fort Drum is Northern New York's largest single-site employer.  More than 15,000 soldiers and close to 4,000 civilians work there. The payroll alone is more than a billion dollars. These numbers may sound staggering but last year Fort Drum pumped even more money  into the local economy. The total amount is slightly smaller this year.

Carl McLaughlin with the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization says this is because there are fewer soldiers now at Fort Drum.

“We’ve been declining and I’ve been waiting for us to get to that lower level and we finally hit it -- 2015. We are in a stable position here for at least the next two years,” he said.

McLaughlin says despite Army downsizing, Fort Drum’s still contributing huge amounts of money into the region’s economy.

“We call Fort Drum an economic engine and what we mean by that is just because of the economic activity. Most of that activity is straight payroll going into rents and all the normal expenses of living. That creates a lot of secondary and tertiary impacts and that in turn creates jobs,” McLaughlin said.

Just how many jobs? According to McLaughlin, money from Fort Drum has created an additional 6 thousand in the surrounding community.  Most of those jobs are in hospitals, schools and businesses.

But the base’s  economic impact in years to come depends on the size of the Army. Congress has put off its decision to drastically reducing troop numbers until 2017.

“I do think we have to be on guard, if you will, before we know what size of Army we are ultimately going to have."

McLaughlin says overall this report is good news, for now.