Study to look at Camp Atterbury’s economic impact

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The Indiana National Guard has asked for a study into the economic impact that the thousands of additional soldiers training at Camp Atterbury have had on the surrounding area.

The study will be led by an Indiana University professor and was sought because military leaders want information on the post's economic contribution in order to demonstrate its worth to elected officials, Atterbury spokeswoman Joanna Bryant Caplette told The Daily Journal of Franklin for a story Monday.

The post, about 40 miles south of Indianapolis, has trained more than 70,000 service members being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since it became a mobilization site in 2003, according to military officials. The Army is spending about $75 million on building additional barracks and other expansion projects at the base.

Barry Rubin, chairman of IU's policy analysis faculty, said the impact study could help Atterbury get training assignments now at other bases around the country that will be closed because of military budget cuts.

But Rubin said the study also will look at aspects such as soldiers who volunteer in the community, including for a conservation group and the children's museum in Columbus, Rubin said.

"We are particularly interested in the volunteerism that takes place by the military because no one has any idea about the quantity of it," he said. "But the contribution to the community goes beyond just dollars, and we want to be more comprehensive about the impact to the region."

The study is expected to be completed in May and will involve a class of about 30 graduate students.

Preliminary research found that soldiers from Camp Atterbury and the National Guard's Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations in southern Indiana's Jennings County occupy an average of 20 rooms a night in seven hotels in Edinburgh, resulting in more than 50,000 annual room stays. Restaurant owners and managers told researchers that 30 to 75 percent of their sales can be directly attributed to one or both facilities.

Atterbury gets about $123 million in state and federal funding a year for operating costs, but that figure doesn't include salaries or benefits, Caplette said. Atterbury and Muscatatuck employ about 2,500 people, she said.

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