Gov. Jay Nixon announced his effort to enhance the state's military bases, force strength and federal defense spending in front of a packed crowd at St. Robert City Hall on Friday.
The governor said he was creating the Missouri Military Partnership to help retain, protect and enhance Department of Defense activities in the state. As a part of this effort, the state plans to gather input from military communities.
St. Robert Mayor George Sanders introduced Gov. Nixon to the standing-room-only crowd.
“[Gov. Nixon] has been a great supporter of our commitment to Fort Leonard Wood,” Sanders said.
Gov. Nixon last visited the Fort Leonard Wood area in August to assess flood damages. He started his speech by thanking local leaders for their support and said he recognized a lot of them from his last visit.
“Unfortunately I go through a lot of these names, as its raining, and I think about the last time I was in Waynesville,” Nixon said. “I appreciate everyone's leadership during that horrific flood and the way folks moved forward.
“It's great to be here. I especially appreciate on this rainy day the great turnout.”
The Democratic governor spoke about Fort Leonard Wood's vital impact on the Missouri economy. The governor said that Fort Leonard Wood provides a total of 36,000 direct and indirect jobs for the state. The economic impact of Fort Leonard Wood is estimated at $2 billion per year, he said.
"I don't think anyone does what is done at Fort Leonard wood better anywhere in the world," the governor said.
Nixon said that the military jobs provided by installations within the state have helped keep Missouri's employment below the national average for 51 straight months.
“For all of these reasons, I have worked hard as governor to protect and if, possible, enhance our military bases,” Nixon said. “We have invested into an in-depth economic impact study and strengthened and expanded our relationships at the local, state and federal level.”
The study analyzed the economic impact of Missouri National Guard, Whiteman Air Force Base, Fort Leonard Wood and all U.S. Department of Defense spending in Missouri. According to the study, the Department of Defense spends about $14.9 billion annually in Missouri to operate all military installations, pay personnel, and purchase goods and services from private firms, including defense contractors. The military spending creates approximately 275,000 direct and indirect jobs and has a total economic impact of more than $39 billion.
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“In this environment of consolidating and realigning forces and infrastructure, it will take a clear focus and a united effort by our state to ensure the safety of our nation and the future of this Army community, and that's what brings us here today,” Nixon said.
In June, the U.S. Army announced its plans to reduce and restructure its forces as part of a $487 billion reduction in Department of Defense funding, based on the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Nixon said that he signed executive orders creating the Missouri Military Partnership on Tuesday morning. Nixon appointed Treasurer Clint Zweifel to lead the partnership and gather input from military communities.
Nixon said that during Zweifel's tenure as treasurer, he has developed a keen awareness of the role of Fort Leonard Wood. Zweifel said that Fort Leonard is a vital part of the Pulaski County community.
“Military personnel have helped shape this fort,” Zweifel said. “Military is a way of life in this community, from children to veterans. This area is rich about stories of our nation's heroes. I am honored to work with you to ensuring Missouri's voices are heard loud and clear.”
“There is no better national model of partnership between military and community than you have here at Fort Leonard Wood.”
Gov. Nixon said his administration is committed to working closely with legislators from military communities. In a press release, Nixon said that Missouri’s advantages include an outstanding workforce, low cost of living, low energy costs, low training costs, low land costs, expansion opportunities, existing infrastructure and low building costs.
The executive order signed by Nixon Friday morning directs the Missouri Military Partnership to prepare a report that details the state’s collective strategy to protect, retain and enhance Missouri’s defense installations and their positive impacts to the governor by March 31.