With the possibility of another round of Base Realignment and Closure – also known as BRAC – on the horizon sometime in the next five years, local depot supporters, the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and the Annis-ton satellite chapter of the Association of the United States Army want to take action now.
Ronald P. Hamner, long-time BRAC worker for the Army Materiel Command and BRAC 2005 advisor, said that to keep the depot off the chopping block, the community needs to begin speaking up about the depot’s local impor-tance. Part of the reason Fort McClellan was slated for closure in BRAC 1995 was because of community compla-cency, Hamner said.
“BRAC is all about communicating value,” he said. “You have to tell your story.”
That depot “story” includes the employment of more than 7,400 people and a $366 million payroll, according to Phillip W. Dean, who works in the depot’s Directorate of Production Engineering and was another guest speaker at the meeting.
Dean spoke for about 15 minutes before Hamner, outlining the current capabilities, projects and goals of the depot. With the help of a Power Point presentation, Dean listed charts and numbers that reflected both decline and promise in the depot’s recent operations.
The workload for the depot has decreased to about $742 million in this fiscal year from about $1.1 billion in the 2007. Only 23 new employees were hired this year compared to 378 in 2006.
Still, the depot has had its share of good fortune. In May, the Chamber of Commerce received a $100,000 grant, part of which went to the depot. The money is part of a state BRAC grant that the depot has been receiving since 2003 to ensure that it didn’t shut down in 2005. When that didn’t happen, the chamber kept applying for the funds to help promote the depot as well as local economic development.
Last August, the depot opened an $85 million facility for maintaining and repairing engines. And since BRAC 2005, the depot has developed more than 30 new programs that promote successful private-public partnerships, which had been one of the last BRAC goals, Dean said.
Hamner pointed to these private-public partnerships – specifically the depot’s cooperation with local colleges to train students to become highly skilled depot technicians – as just one of many examples of the depot’s community and Army value. Hamner said he recently met a Gadsden woman who sang the depot’s praises for the opportunity it had given her son through its cooperation with Gadsden State Community College. That’s the kind of story that needs to be told, he said.
“You are bringing in young, highly trained people,” Hamner said. “Had I been a BRAC commissioner and heard that (woman’s) favorable opinion (of the depot), mine would have been a lot more favorable, too.”
More recently, depot goals have focused on adapting to new Department of Defense missions, increasing operations efficiency, improving worker safety and reducing production costs.
Dean said the next couple years will “be a balancing act” for the depot as it works on these goals but agreed with Hamner on the importance of community promotion as the installation’s lifeline.
“The community support we (the depot) received in 2005 was excellent, and we need to keep that going,” Dean said.
The AUSA sponsored the breakfast, which cost $12 per person to attend.
Contact staff writer Cameron Steele at email@example.com or 256-235-3562.