By Mike McKean
It is hard to understand the significant impact Base Realignment and Closure is going to have in North Alabama, and Decatur specifically. BRAC will be the largest one-time increase in people and job opportunities that we will see in the next few decades.
Let me put in perspective what BRAC will do. Army Materiel Command is the single point of entry for almost every contract the Army awards. This is billions of dollars. AMC says, "if a soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it or eats it, AMC provides it."
When the BRAC movements are complete, Redstone will have 12 general officers. Ft. Benning, Ga., one of the Army's largest installations, has only two general officers, the senior one being a two-star general.
Redstone will have a four-star general in command of Redstone and AMC; there are a total of 12 four-star generals in the entire U.S. Army.
Additionally, more than 4,000 government jobs and many more commercial jobs are expected. So what does this do to Decatur?
It brings opportunities.
Mayor Don Kyle and the Chamber of Commerce have been active in ensuring that the government personnel know Decatur is a wonderful place to live, but have also invited the commander of AMC to look at Decatur for leased office space for his command. If some of the government employees select Decatur as their homes, they bring families with our values coupled with discretionary income to spend in our city and county.
If we are successful in luring additional business and possibly government offices here, many opportunities for the city to grow should develop — particularly our downtown area — with additional restaurants, boutiques, etc.
Although many people are throwing the "BRAC" term around in an effort to obtain something, we should understand we already have what most of the personnel relocating are looking for. They are interested in a community with superior education, quality health care and an overall good quality of life. These are all our strengths. School Superintendent Sam Houston and his staff have a magnificent education system (I am saying that and I am a product of the Fairfax County, Va., school system; my daughter also graduated from Fairfax County).
The main difference is the passion and involvement of our educators as well as all the opportunities for the students. The health care system is probably in the top 10 percent of communities our size in the nation — we even have a free clinic for those who are employed but cannot afford insurance.
The quality of life is all about the people of Decatur — each of you. Take pride and be involved, demonstrate our Southern hospitality and embrace our potential new neighbors. The most powerful marketing tool is having the visitors experience our community personally.
Retired Col. Mike McKean has been a resident of Morgan County since 2003. He retired from the U.S. Army (Infantry) in 1996 and has been involved with defense industries as a consultant. Additionally, McKean provides motivational leadership seminars and training to companies within the United States. He spent two years as the vice president of Norwich University in Vermont prior to relocating to Danville.