The Municipality of Anchorage is conducting a comprehensive study on the impact of the potential troop drawdown at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, and hosted a sparsely attended community meeting on the topic in east Anchorage on Tuesday evening. The Department of Defense will decide soon if they will remove more than 2,600 active duty army soldiers from the base or if they will delay the decision by a year or indefinitely.
If the soldiers and their 3,000 family members do leave, the municipality wants to be ready.They are gathering community comments through focus groups, surveys, and community meetings. They hired Northern Economics to create an economic model that would show the potential impacts on businesses, schools, social services, and housing markets.
“It will be a lot of microanalysis,” explained Susanne Fleek-Green, the mayor’s chief of staff. It involves “going to businesses, going to neighborhoods, going to community councils to better understand how the economy is affected by our strong forces here at JBER and what we can do to help make those business more resilient if there is a force drawdown.”
Fleek-Green said the data will be useful even if the potential drawdown doesn’t happen. The city will better understand where service members and their families are living, shopping, and volunteering, and where military spouses are working. Community members at Tuesday’s public meeting also suggested looking at how the drawdown could impact civilian contractors who work on base.
Don Crandall, who lives in Mountain View, says the local businesses in his neighborhood will be negatively impacted because it’s so close to JBER. But he says there could be an upside.
“We do have a severe housing shortage in Anchorage and in Mountain View. Rents are very high. Vacancy rates are very low. So this might reduce some of the pressure on that,” he said.
He also suggested military hospital beds could be repurposed as detox facilities.
Another of the 20 community members in attendance said he fears that troop reductions will lead to fewer services for veterans, like medical facilities.
The $180,000 study is funded by the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment. The muni plans to finish it and present it to the public in May.
There will be another community meeting Wednesday night at Gruening Middle School in Eagle River.