Base Of StrengthLouisiana Military Bases Drive Louisiana Economy
Louisiana is home to significant military installations that prepare thousands of active duty troops bound for worldwide missions every year. These bases, established in the first half of the 20th century, are also major economic drivers in the state economy.
About 82,700 Louisiana jobs are directly or indirectly associated with installations that include the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk in Leesville, the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse and Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City. The economic impact of the military in Louisiana, including military base employment, defense contracts secured by state-based business and industry, and military retirees living in Louisiana was $8.7 billion in 2012, according to a study commissioned by LED.
Established in 1941, Fort Polk is an economic force in Central Louisiana. With more than 16,000 combined active duty and civilian personnel, it is also the largest single employer in the state. Since 1993, the base has been home to the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center, which provides realistic and rigorous training exercises for light infantry and special operations forces. About half of U.S. troops bound for Iraq and Afghanistan completed their training at Fort Polk. While bases nationwide have shrunk or closed in the last two decades, Fort Polk has flourished and expanded. Over the last 10 years, the base has seen $1.2 billion in new construction projects and additional land acquisition, says Michael Reese, founding board chairman of the regional advocacy organization for the installation, Fort Polk Progress.
“It’s been good business for the Army to expand Fort Polk,” Reese said. “The cost of operating in Louisiana is much lower than in other states. We have the second lowest energy costs in the country and competitive wages for the civilian workforce. And while it’s hot, which makes for good mock training, our weather is such that you can train year-round generally without interruption.”
“It’s been good business for the Army to expand Fort Polk. The cost of operating in Louisiana is much lower than in other states. We have the second lowest energy costs in the country and competitive wages for the civilian workforce.”
The Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse and the Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans are two of the largest installations in southeast Louisiana. The Naval Air Station is a training hub for active duty and reservists across all branches of the armed services. Two-thirds of those employed by the military in this region of the state work at the installation. According to the LED study, more than $527 million is tied to directly to military employment and installations contracts in the 10 parishes that make up this region of the state.
In northwest Louisiana, the largest single regional employer is Barksdale Air Force Base. Like Fort Polk, Barksdale is supported by an active advocacy organization, Barksdale Forward, composed of local business and civic leaders who recognize its economic impact.
Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana, employs more than 6,700 active duty reservists and 2,400 civilians.
Barksdale employs more than 6,700 active duty and reservists and 2,400 civilians. Commissioned in the 1930s, the base was activated as an Air Force Global Strike Command in 2009 and is the headquarters of the 8th Air Force and 307th Bomb Wing. Barksdale airmen have played a significant role in combat missions for decades, including in the Middle East since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The economic impact of the base was $812 million in 2015, according to Barksdale’s most recent Economic Impact Statement. Barksdale has also made a lasting cultural impact on the Shreveport-Bossier area, said Murray Viser, Barksdale Forward president and chief operating officer.
“These men and women come from all over the country and they bring their experiences with them,” Viser said. “They get out and get involved in the community and leave their mark. It’s made us a better place.”