Drum added $1.7B to local economy, report finds

The sign on Route 11 in LeRay welcoming people to the main entrance to Fort Drum. Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM — Fort Drum infused nearly $1.7 billion into the local economy in 2019, according to the annual regional economic impact report from Advocate Drum.

Advocate Drum, formally named the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, performs these annual economic studies to track how much economic benefit the military base provides to the surrounding region. In 2019, the organization estimates Fort Drum generated over $1.3 billion in direct spending, including payroll and purchases, and added another estimated $360 million to the local economy indirectly through induced business activity and off-post spending. The total combined infusion was estimated at $1.696 billion.

That total impact accounted for 11.6% of the total regional GDP last year, slightly lower than 2018, when the base generated about 12.5% of the regional GDP.

Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said the base remains one of the north country’s most important economic drivers.

“They’re one of our three main economic driving engines right now,” he said. “We’ve got agriculture, tourism and Fort Drum.”

While the Army reports raw spending numbers on Fort Drum annually, those reports do not account for the indirect impact of that spending on the surrounding area. Advocate Drum uses an economic model, developed by the Economic Development Research Group out of Boston, that estimates the effects of Army spending on the region at large.

“In order to understand the full economic impact of that spending on the three-county region, you have to understand the additional economic activity that spending generates and the jobs that spending supports,” David J. Zembiec, Jefferson County Economic Development deputy CEO and Advocate Drum board member, said in a prepared statement. “We entered the numbers reported by Fort Drum into a model developed just for that purpose.”

Fort Drum employed 19,148 people in 2019, including soldiers and civilians, making it the largest single-site employer in the state. The report estimates the base generated another 5,465 jobs indirectly, meaning those jobs were created by employers who serve Fort Drum and its soldiers, but are not directly related to Fort Drum.

Mr. Gray said those off-post jobs are driven mainly because of how decentralized Fort Drum is. Unlike most other military bases, Fort Drum does not have a school on base for military students, nor does it have a full-service hospital. Soldiers and their families use schools, hospitals and other services out in the community, which increases revenues and encourages a stronger connection between the community and the base.

“Our healthcare is a major beneficiary of that. Because they don’t really have an on-base hospital, they use the hospitals out in the community,” he said. “That makes hospitals out in the community that much better.”

Fort Drum-related jobs, including those who work on-post and those who work in indirectly-linked industries, accounted for 22% of the 110,654 wage earners in the tri-county region.

Advocate Drum’s report indicates that of the 19,148 on-post employees, 17,796 were from Jefferson County, 957 were from Lewis County and 236 were from St. Lawrence County.

The 5,465 indirectly-generated jobs were mostly focused in Jefferson County, where an estimated 5,291 positions were supported by Fort Drum’s presence. There were an estimated 115 positions indirectly supported by the base in Lewis County, and another 32 in St. Lawrence County.

The indirect industries most tied to the base are healthcare and education. Advocate Drum estimates Fort Drum generated 1,670 jobs in healthcare and 1,648 in education.

Advocate Drum also measured the tax revenues generated for local and state governments by the base. A total of $177 million in local tax revenue was generated for Jefferson County, $15.7 million was generated for St. Lawrence County and $10 million was generated for Lewis County. A total of $1.4 million in taxes was generated outside of the tri-county area for a combined total of $204.9 million in local tax revenue. The base also generated $217.9 million in state tax revenue.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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