Manhattan is an Army town.
We need the Army, and the Army needs us.
Now is the time to make those points. Strongly.
Yes, Manhattan is a college town. No question about it. K-State has a dominating physical and psychological presence here, and thank goodness for that. There’s no need to recite all the wonderful things that a major university brings.
So it can be easy to forget that Fort Riley is actually the region’s largest employer. It has an economic impact of nearly $2 billion per year.
This is very serious business. Last time Fort Riley really cut back, Manhattan went into a decade-long slide. Everything was an uphill battle. People left. Schools closed. Businesses struggled.
When Fort Riley started booming again, Manhattan took off. In many ways it led the state through the recession. All the growth around here can pretty directly be tied to growth at Fort Riley. You like all the new stores downtown? You like new restaurants, the new housing subdivisions? Those things make your life a little better? Well, you owe that to the Army boom of the past decade.
That boom is now clearly over. Cutbacks have already begun. The question is: How much will Fort Riley be cut?
Readers have a chance to affect that process. The military is asking for public comment while it contemplates the question.
While it’s important to make the point that Manhattan is helped by the presence of Fort Riley, it’s more important to make the point that the Army and the nation are better off with a strong and vital Fort Riley. Ultimately, leaders are going to decide future base realignments on that basis. This is national defense, after all, not a social welfare program.
Perhaps you have a particular point to make in that regard. Some to remember: The region has worked hard together to strengthen connections to Fort Riley. For instance, roads have been improved leading into and out of the base. Schools and colleges have formed partnerships with Fort Riley and have adapted to benefit Army personnel and their families. Municipal and emergency services have teamed up with Fort Riley for mutual benefit. The region works hard to welcome military families in recreation programs and the like - and to knit them together with the community in whatever ways possible. Regional governments have protected the land surrounding the fort to make sure development doesn’t encroach onto training ground. And the region has responded to the fort’s needs by supplying housing.
We encourage you to participate. It’s important. The deadline to do so is Aug. 25.
You can send comments to:
U.S. Army Environmental Command
ATTN: SPEA Public Comments
2450 Connell Road (Building 2264)
Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664