The military presence in Colorado Springs already accounts for 40 percent of the economy‚ with an annual impact of $2.5 billion. Both of those numbers will soon increase significantly. The population of 35‚000 active duty personnel is about to grow by 10‚000, as soldiers will be added to the Fort Carson Army installation over the next four years. The large influx is due to transfers of soldiers from other installations as a result of the Department of Defense BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and Army Trasformation initiatives.
“Besides the 10‚000 soldiers‚ they will bring about 17‚000 family members who will work in the community and attend our school districts‚” says Brian Binn‚ president of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Division. “All of this news simply means more positive growth for this community.”
The military has been a bedrock of the Pikes Peak region since the early 1940s‚ when Fort Carson (then Camp Carson) was established in 1942 to train soldiers and airmen for World War II. Since then‚ four other military installations have been added – the Air Force Academy‚ Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station‚ Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base.
“When I came here in the 1960s‚ Colorado Springs was a slow-moving cowtown of about 45‚000 people‚ and the only things it had going for it was tourism and the military‚” says Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Wes Clark‚ USAF and chairman of the chamber’s Military Affairs Council. “Throughout the years‚ the city has really stuck by that military heritage and has grown stronger because of it.”
Binn says the diversity of missions and service personnel is what makes Colorado Springs one of the unique military communities in the country.
“We have Air Force bases‚ an Army installation‚ the Air Force Space Command‚ U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command‚ NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and USNORTHCOM (United States Northern Command) all in the same city – few can claim such a distinction‚” he says. “Here in Colorado Springs‚ we know that the military is vital to our economy‚ and the community has been totally supportive of its presence.”
Binn adds that not only is the military important in the business-and-commerce aspect of the local economy‚ but the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families are a large part of the volunteer community.
“These citizens are involved in church and school programs and truly embrace everything that Colorado Springs has to offer‚” he says. “That’s why you see so many continue to live here once they retire or leave the service.” Maj. Gen. Clark says every military person he encounters has praise for how they are accepted in Colorado Springs. “That isn’t the case in all military cities‚” he says. “In other places‚ people might complain about the military adding to traffic congestion or crowding the schools‚ but not here. Soldiers and airmen and their families are welcomed. I can’t imagine a friendlier environment to live."