Another strong statistical ranking

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Editorial: Nov. 21, 2013

THE ISSUE: No. 1 on military 'boom town’ list
Thanks for the recognition

Thanks to positive impact of Fort Knox, the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area again finds itself topping a list other areas envy.

During the 2009 to 2011 time period, the Elizabethtown MSA was recognized as the fastest growing military area based on a combination of military and non-military gross domestic product, population growth, and per capital personal income. The MSA is made up of Hardin, LaRue and Meade counties.

While the messenger certainly isn’t one most would recognize or consider an expected distributor for such rankings, the source from which its findings were drawn — the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis — leaves no room for question. That the MSA ranked in the No. 1 position in the survey is great.

Announced as a survey in honor of Veterans Day, Austin, Texas-based SpareFoot Inc. published the “America’s Top 10 Military Boom Towns” ranking through its company’s internet blog. Touting itself as “the world’s largest, simplest and best marketplace for self-storage,” SpareFoot is a web-based resource for locating, comparing and reserving available storage unit rentals.

The online tech company possesses a pretty savvy marketing knack, too. After all, the blog entry — and along with it, the company’s complete online presence — now has appeared coast-to-coast in print and online in newspapers, business journals and other economic-related trade publications nearby the military installations that made the list.

What do all these markets have in common? For one thing each has numerous self-storage rental facilities available to a military and civilian marketplace that might have use for them. Not bad for a relatively free national media campaign.

But enough about SpareFoot, let’s talk about us.

The Elizabethtown MSA outpaced others with an average annual growth rate of 17 percent in per capital military gross domestic product, 6.33 percent in non-military GDP, a 2.74 percent average growth in population, and a 3.51 percent average growth in annual per capital income. 

The next closest MSA was El Paso, Texas, in connection with Fort Bliss and the William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

What does the ranking mean to those of us who live, work and play in Hardin County and our neighboring counties of LaRue and Meade? It means that while many large cities and small towns across our country have continued to struggle with the lingering effects of a recessionary economy, overall ours has benefitted from the transitions that have taken place within and outside the post gates at Fort Knox.

But we didn’t need a self-serving Top 10 survey ranking to tell us that.

Granted, not every business or household within the MSA has experienced an economic upswing during and since the timeframe of the Sparefoot study. For some, there has been struggle in holding onto cash flow or discretionary household income. For these, the top ranking might give cause to consider that things could have been more difficult without the insulating effect of a military post in growth as a neighbor.

Col. T.J. Edwards, the new garrison commander, explained to the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon that the overall economic impact of Fort Knox will continue to exceed pre-BRAC levels despite the deactivation of the post's only combat brigade.

Before base realignment shifted the mission of Fort Knox and brought new higher-paying operations including the Human Resources Command, the top annual economic impact reported was $1.77 billion in 2007. While Edwards says Fort Knox's financial influence will slip from $2.8 billion to $2.62 billion that’s still well above the traditional total and certainly qualifies as a “boom.”

While it’s important to recognize that some of the post employees earn that money head north to Jefferson County and spend very little in this MSA, these statistics are no less valuable representation of how impactful Fort Knox truly is.

Will the study be a driver of future prosperity? Perhaps for SpareFoot, but it isn’t likely there will be any resulting bounce for our area. But it is nice to be recognized nonetheless. And for this, we thank SpareFoot.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.