He was elected, and it came in a landslide victory. Now, Wednesday’s news about the closure of a BAE facility in Anniston has given the mayor-elect the perfect lead-in for discussions with Alabama’s top job-creators.
The message: An over-reliance on one type of employer can become detrimental to a city’s fiscal health.
It’s not merely an Anniston problem, of course, but the city has historically been dependent on military projects and government jobs to keep its workforce healthy. That’s no surprise, considering Fort McClellan, Anniston Army Depot, the Center for Domestic Preparedness and the National Guard Training Center. Long-term, diversifying the city’s employers — more private-sector work added to the government-related jobs — should be a goal of Anniston’s City Hall.
BAE’s decision falls in line with other national firms whose contracts are directly related to the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Iraq officially over and the drawdown in Afghanistan well under way, companies such as BAE that make or repair products, vehicles and weapons for the military can face leaner times.
We’re thankful that BAE executives say the company’s other two Anniston facilities will remain open. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to learn that 145 workers will be laid off by the end of the year. (Likewise, it’s worth noting that Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, told The Star recently that there are thousands of jobs indirectly related to the depot, many of which could be affected as more depot jobs disappear.)
Stewart and economic development officials in Calhoun County should be greatly concerned by this latest development. Drawdowns at Anniston Army Depot have begun. The Army’s chemical-weapons incinerator has finished its primary mission. BAE’s layoffs are another sign that industries not dependent on such a fleeting source are not a wish, but a need.
Stewart, along with the incoming City Council, doesn’t take office until November. This gives him something else to ponder until he’s sworn in.