Getting to the Bottom Line: Value of One Soldier to a Local Economy

Creative EDC and Fayetteville State University evaluated the economic impact of potential decreases (or increases) in personnel at Fort Bragg. It was a significant research project that resulted in volumes of data and information. However, the project steering committee wanted the 200-page report boiled down to one critical piece of information – what is the value of a soldier to a local economy? In economic development, we often need to quantify the bottom line value of a project on the economy. The Fort Bragg study reminded our team how important it is to be able to convey complicated information succinctly.

In the Fort Bragg study, we found that each 100 active duty military jobs in the region support as many as 60 other jobs (including civilians at Fort Bragg). Each active duty military job can support an average of as much as $90,000 in labor income—representing soldier income plus income for a soldier’s share of supported jobs. So, the bottom line answer for the steering committee was that one soldier equals $90,000 in labor income in the region. Going forward, the community can easily track the impact of increases and decreases of personnel at Fort Bragg and it is measured in dollars, something that all audiences understand. One can argue the fine details of the analysis, but most people usually want a simple indicator they can digest.

In economic development, we are often tasked with explaining the impact of a complicated project, program results, and the intricate details of incentive programs. Next time, see if you can boil down the information to something everyone can relate to. Ask your board for the one piece of information they want reported. Ask the county commissioners for the most meaningful piece of information for a project. Ask your client for the most critical piece of the incentive deal. Have all the information as back up, but focus your message on the bottom line impact your audience is craving.

As consultants, we recognize that only the ED staff and a couple of interested others will read a 200-page report. We have started putting more emphasis on an easy to digest executive summary, charts, infographics, and better ways to efficiently deliver information. We often joke that nobody reads anymore; we really don’t think that is true. We think that people read so much that they need summaries and bullet points to get through all of the information, then file away the full report to access when needed. When you have to deliver conclusions from complicated analyses, focus on that bottom line for greatest impact.

For those interested in the research and analysis of the Fort Bragg impact study, the full report, Regional Impact Analysis for Potential Future Reduction of Personnel at Fort Bragg and Recommendations for Economic Diversification in Cumberland, Hoke, and Harnett Counties, can be read here.  The report was prepared for the City of Fayetteville and funded by the Office of Economic Adjustment in the U.S. Department of Defense.

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