The goal of “Fort Rucker: Heartbeat of the Wiregrass” – a coalition of Wiregrass cities, Friends of Fort Rucker, the State of Alabama and the Southeast Alabama Gas District – is to get as many people as possible to sign up on its website, www.wiregrassheartbeat.com, to create a database to pull from in the future to keep people involved in supporting Fort Rucker.
The coalition launched its website on May 30 during an event in Dothan that included speeches from local mayors and Governor Kay Ivey.
Stayton said Fort Rucker is important to Daleville’s economy and life. Fort Rucker generates up to 23,000 jobs and boasts a local economic impact of an estimated $1.5 billion.
“If it wasn’t for Fort Rucker, this place would be a ghost town. Not just Daleville, but (places like) Enterprise, also,” Stayton said. “One of the many reasons Fort Rucker is very important to Daleville is it brings people to this area for the different types of jobs that they have on Fort Rucker. It boosts our economy. The fact that our gate butts Fort Rucker, the majority of (those employees and citizens) have to come through Daleville.”
He said people from different countries and different nationalities also come to Fort Rucker and move
to Daleville, which provides diversity to the population to the city.
“A lot of them decide to stay here and they open up restaurants,” he said.
Stayton said any BRAC discussions and decisions affect more than just one person because of the effect Fort Rucker has on its surrounding communities, including Daleville.
“Imagine Fort Rucker being water and you drop a small rock in it,” he said. “That’s BRAC. The water is nice, still and calm. You take that little rock, and when you drop it in there, it makes a ripple effect. When BRAC happens, it makes a ripple effect and it goes all the way across that pond.”
Stayton also said BRAC can even affect bringing businesses to the city.
He said when he and Code Enforcer Wayne Stripling reach out to potential business owners, “the first thing they ask is, ‘Have you heard anything about BRAC?'”
“BRAC affects everybody. It affects the soldier, it affects the person tightening the bolt that goes into the helicopter, and it affects, in turn, their families because they have to worry about a job.
“They (might) have to move. That means they would have to uproot their family and move somewhere else, and that’s another vacancy that the City of Daleville has. It trickles down, you know. If you don’t have people to fill that workforce, then more jobs aren’t going to come here.”
The Heartbeat of the Wiregrass database provides a way to bring Fort Rucker’s surrounding communities together.
“Every city government backs Fort Rucker, and so do the people, but you don’t hear too much from them unless something major happens,” Stayton said. “The cities around Fort Rucker, and the citizens in these cities, we kind of form a blanket around Fort Rucker. We’ve got to take care of Fort Rucker just as it takes care of us. We’ve got to make sure that they’re there doing their job so that we can be here doing our job.”
The petition also allows citizens to voice their support for Fort Rucker.
“It comes right down to the individual,” Stayton said. “The individual has to be heard.
“You can go right now and knock on five doors. (Behind) three of those doors are going to be somebody that works on Fort Rucker or has a family member that does work on Fort Rucker that they have to rely on to live.
“If our government can see that it is a concern of the citizens and the citizens are not just one or two or three or four, but thousands? Yeah, it turns heads. Washington will look this way.”
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