Never underestimate the power of the business lobby.
That was the message relayed repeatedly Monday by advocates for Fort Rucker who hope to beef up the Army post’s corporate support in the Wiregrass.
The local chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) wants to double its business members in the next 90 days. If it can exceed its goal by a few members, the Wiregrass Chapter of AUSA would become the largest in Alabama.
“Membership equals capability and a greater opportunity to get funding,” said Ret. Col. Mark Jones, AUSA Wiregrass Chapter President.
Military funding rises and falls with needs and administrations. Jones said, however, that strong community support can’t be underestimated.
“Army Aviation is not cheap. These are flying machines and they are expensive. That is why we need sustainable and predictable funding.”
Business partnerships in the AUSA Wiregrass Chapter rose recently from 36 to more than 100. Some of those partnerships lapsed and now the chapter is looking to add around 100 in the next 90 days. Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver pointed to a 2015 event held on post at Fort Rucker in which busloads of Wiregrass residents attended a listening session when Congress was considering sequestration – a significant reduction in military spending.
“It wasn’t that long ago that, as leaders of our community, we came together and put together a presentation to a commission that came to hear from us,” Culver said. “Now, we are reaching out to the community to do the same thing.”
Although sequestration isn’t a matter at hand currently, the Army is always tasked with finding more efficient ways to complete its mission. That often means re-allocating people and missions from one installation to another. Dothan School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz, who also serves as the vice president for membership for the Wiregrass AUSA Chapter, said community support can be a contributing factor in those decisions.
According to a 2008 Troy University study, Fort Rucker creates 23,150 Wiregrass jobs directly and indirectly, pouring $850 million in wages and salaries into the Wiregrass economy. The study also indicated retirees living within 50 miles of Fort Rucker earned $1 billion in military retiree and annuitant pay.
The AUSA Wiregrass Chapter already boasts thousands of individual members.
Corporate memberships start for as little as $175 annually. Applications for membership can be found at www.ausawiregrass.org, then click on community partner application.