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The Chamber has long been supportive of the work of our nation’s military and our veterans, and nowhere is that on display more than our connection with one of the country’s most important military installations – a facility just a few miles up the interstate, Fort Leonard Wood.
The Fort hosted more than 40 Chamber members on August 15 for a day trip designed to further the relationship between Springfield and the military community. The group spent the day touring military facilities, hearing about opportunities for procurement and workforce development and interacting with the men and women who keep the base operating smoothly and efficiently.
One of the highlights of the trip – the first for the Chamber since 2012 – was a briefing from Commanding Gen. Kent Savre about the facility’s mission, as well as how it impacts and is impacted by the surrounding communities.
“Fort Wood is the biggest military base in the country without a large population outside the base,” the general told those in attendance. “If you are close to a big city, people sort of disappear. But in an area like this, we rely on the local community.”
It’s safe to say the state relies on the Fort as well. The base is a statewide economic driver, with an annual operating budget of more than $470 million and status as one of the state’s 10 largest employers. The impact is acutely felt on the local communities around the Fort; in neighboring St. Robert, 25 percent of public school teachers are spouses of Fort personnel.
The Fort also performs crucial functions for the military, serving as the only live-agents chemical facility in the world and producing leaders in engineering, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense and military police as a Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. “We’re always looking to be the best at what we do, so others want to come here,” the general said.
Another anticipated aspect of the day was a session about recruitment opportunities, which attracted several Chamber members who have not previously attended the trip. The Fort is looking to highlight ways veterans can be valuable additions for local businesses.
“I learned that Fort Leonard Wood is a huge and diverse base,” said Shirley Allison, vice president of business development for O’Bannon Bank. “It enables our young people to develop skills, education, leadership, teamwork, respect, integrity and dedication to something real when civilian life might not afford them those opportunities.”
The day’s events also included a tour of the base and a look at procurement possibilities for businesses. Overall, Allison said the wide range of interests and opportunities at the base reminded her of the Chamber itself.
“The Chamber, in so many ways, is like Fort Leonard Wood,” she said. “It informs business in so many ways, and it connects people to many areas that they did not realize could or would benefit their business. The Chamber is a great way to learn about our great state, be involved and reach all areas of the community.”