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Seeing the Future

The Fort Bragg Regional Alliance laid the groundwork for today’s growth

by Kelly Twedell It takes of team of industrious visionaries to adequately plan for something as major as the Base Realignment changes that have taken place at Fort Bragg.

The Fort Bragg Regional Alliance is how people around these parts refer to those visionaries. The Alliance is composed of representatives from 11 counties and 73 municipalities around Fort Bragg who came together to cooperate on growth issues and to determine the best ways to take advantage of the Department of Defense’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure plan, better known as BRAC.

“We are a regional organization that tries to leverage existing resources to accomplish the tasks needed for the region,” said Greg Taylor, the Executive Director for the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance.

Since 2005 the team has worked to take into account the many factors pertaining to the expansive growth that has already taken place and the growth that is yet to come in the region. The Alliance has put together many initiatives, partnerships and collaborations to promote our region over the last few years and to draw in business for the defense industry.

From the beginning, funds were leveraged from the Department of Defense and from local governments and the Alliance created a comprehensive regional growth plan that identified numerous issues to tackle. At the top of their lists were things like housing, roads and schools — the things that people need to live in a community — and the Alliance acted as a catalyst on these issues.

Some Fayetteville business people are now questioning the less-than-expected economic development and ancillary growth BRAC has brought to the region and are wondering if our area overestimated the economic impact of BRAC. Taylor is nonplussed by their criticisms.

“That kind of growth was not expected to occur in the beginning,” Taylor explained. “We were told it would take three to five years after FORSCOM stood up last September.”

June 10 marks the first anniversary of the opening of the headquarters building for U.S. Army Forces Command, better known as FORSCOM, on Fort Bragg, which provides a work environment for TK ##### government employees, many of whom have recently moved into our area. Taylor says the arrival of these newcomers has yielded many gains for our region.

“It’s showing up in the numbers. Fayetteville/Cumberland County has one of the better housing markets, with the average income being higher than other areas, commented Taylor. “We are seeing some of those benefits over time.”

Three successes the Alliance is proudest to claim are the effort to market the region as the “All American Defense Corridor”; launching the NC Defense Business Association; and the workforce platform known as PipelineNC.com.

Taylor said the Alliance partnered with Fayetteville airport authorities and obtained resources from the Office of Economic Adjustment to conduct a study that showed that we have the demand to support the flights. Doing the legwork was a huge undertaking, but it netted a direct flight from Fayetteville to Washington, D.C., which will significantly ease the travel burden for military folks, many of whom travel to the nation’s capitol at least three to four times a month.

The Alliance was also involved in the early stages of the transportation initiatives to coordinate federal and state money allocated to transform the Murchison Road corridor. The Murchison Road bypass will soon be completed through Skibo Road.

“Just this morning we got the approval from the Office of Economic Adjustment for the matching funds to complete the redevelopment of Bragg Boulevard, more commonly known as the quarter development plan,” said John Harbison, Deputy Director for the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance.

A well thought out plan has to be implemented to manage where the traffic will be directed to gain access to Fort Bragg from Skibo Road, Murchison Road and Fort Bragg Boulevard.

“FORSCOM wants to close Bragg Blvd. through the base at the Spring Lake end which stops a major artery,” said Taylor. “So how do we do that if a person needs to travel to Spring Lake but are not using the All-American Freeway?”

While this transportation piece might not seem important to everyone, it will become increasingly important as President Obama recently asked for two more rounds of Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC), one in 2013 and one in 2015.

Transportation becomes a major factor when military officials look at which bases to close. Bases and posts that are not connected to major interstates seem to get put on the chopping block first. By working on this issue now, the Fort Bragg and surrounding communities are insuring that Fort Bragg will retain its place of importance and avoid closure in the future.

The Alliance is also proud of their work to establish PipelineNC, which gives job seekers (both military and civilian) immediate access to online self-assessments, career exploration, ways to track education and training providers and connections to employers and job opportunities. The service exists to help students and job seekers of all ages make better career, education, training and employment decisions and to give employers the tools they need to make better informed hiring decisions.

The communities surrounding Fort Bragg will continue to grow and thrive with initiatives put into action like those of the Fort Bragg Alliance. Their dedication in forming programs that benefit both the community and its recipients will be a gift that keeps giving for the economy while providing local people with jobs.

Thanks to the work of the Alliance, Fort Bragg is already progressing and working on strengthening areas that will be graded and measured up against other military posts for the next round of BRAC. Fayetteville is very fortunate to have this organization in our community.