Skip to Content | Skip to Search | Skip to Navigation

IU study reveals that Indiana military installations boost state and local economy

September 19, 2012
Bloomington, Indiana --

Preliminary results from an ongoing study by Indiana University show significant and positive economic and social impacts in south-central Indiana from the Indiana National Guard's operation of the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex, consisting of Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex.

The study, done in collaboration with the Indiana National Guard through the Indiana Complex Operations Partnership, examines the four counties that host the bases -- Bartholomew, Brown, Jennings and Johnson -- as well as nine surrounding counties and the state as a whole.

Hotels and restaurants are the prime beneficiaries of the military presence, but the study is also looking at hidden benefits such as an increase in the number of volunteers for community organizations.

Image of Members of the 73rd Civil Support Team Kansad Army National GuardA team of graduate researchers from IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs is exploring the economic and social impact of the two facilities and plans to deliver a final report in May 2013. Much of that impact comes from the 2,500 employees working at the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex and from the tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel training at the installations.

For example, more than 9,000 people participated in a monthlong validation exercise hosted by U.S. Army North and U.S. Northern Command this summer. The annual training event tests the emergency response to a catastrophic "weapon of mass destruction" incident occurring on U.S. soil. A resident living in North Vernon told researchers, "The local economy is booming and the surrounding cities are really benefiting from this exercise also. Every time I go through North Vernon, to Columbus or to Seymour, I see a lot of military vehicles. I have noticed a lot of them stopping at local businesses." Some hotels were booked solid as a result of the military presence.

U.S. Army North Public Affairs Officer Patricia Bielling said the exercise cost $18 million, with about $6 million being spent locally. Examples of local expenditures are billeting and meals, as well as venue rental, supplies and more than $480,000 in wages to role players hired from the local area.

The Army North event and other training events have a substantial impact on the local hospitality industry. Seven Bartholomew County hotels completed surveys showing that on a typical night, soldiers from Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck occupy an average of 20 rooms in each hotel, resulting in nearly 50,000 annual room stays. Responses from restaurant owners and managers vary, but estimates are that 30 percent to 75 percent of receipts are directly attributed to one or both of the bases.

The study, under the direction of IU SPEA professor Barry Rubin, will take a broader view of the impact made by Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck.

"Dollars and cents cannot fully explain the impact of this National Guard location," Rubin said. "Instead, I am encouraging a holistic approach in which all aspects of the bases' interactions with the community are examined."

That means researchers will look at how the bases are contributing to local governments, promoting environmental sustainability and supporting charitable and service organizations.

"Not only can a value be placed on the hours of service, but there is also value to this type of social capital for surrounding counties," Rubin said.

The Indiana Complex Operations Partnership, or InCOP, was established by IU, the Indiana National Guard and Joint Forces Command to make the university's training, education and research capabilities more accessible to the Department of Defense. InCOP facilitated the National Guard's research partnership with SPEA in part because the school is uniquely qualified for the assignment. SPEA offers an interdisciplinary education that encompasses government financial management, economic development, nonprofit management and a range of environmental science and environmental policy degrees.

The researchers are encouraging comments from community members as they complete their yearlong study. It will culminate in a graduate capstone course at IU in the spring semester of 2013, during which researchers will further analyze and refine their data in preparation for a final presentation to the Indiana National Guard as well as local and regional government and economic development officials. Comments and questions may be sent to research assistant Kyle O'Rourke at kdorourk@indiana.edu.

Camp Atterbury, near Edinburgh, Ind., is a National Guard training base. Thousands of active duty and reserve forces are trained there before overseas deployments, including Afghanistan. The Civil Air Patrol and other military and civilian organizations also use Atterbury's facilities.

The Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, near Butlerville, Ind., is a unique interagency and intergovernmental training venue, which occupies the grounds of the old Muscatatuck State Hospital. With 1,000 acres, 180 structures and a web of underground tunnels, it offers realistic and complex training for a variety of groups, including active and reserve military units, state and federal agencies, universities and U.S. diplomats.