There’s one significant difference between Manhattan, Kansas, and other Midwestern college towns with major research universities: Fort Riley. This historic U.S. Army installation had an economic impact in FY 2020 (with multipliers) close to $4 billion.
“When we work with outside consultants, they have a hard time finding comparable communities of our size with the twin economic drivers of both a Power Five university and a major military installation,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. “Having both assets in this region makes us attractive for companies wanting to tap into our highly skilled talent pools.”
The installation, located directly west of Manhattan, has more than 15,000 military personnel, 5,500 civilian employees and 15,700 family members, and supports more than 26,500 regional veterans. About half of the military personnel and their families live on post, and the other half live, work and play in Greater Manhattan’s regional communities.
Each year, about 2,000 military members transition from Fort Riley into the civilian workforce. When they make that leap, many employers find that military occupational specialties — ranging from air traffic control to health care to water treatment — translate well into the civilian world.
In addition, military spouses bring global experience and training into the existing regional workforce, providing a highly skilled talent pool from which local employers can recruit.
The economic impact total of Fort Riley to the regional economy includes military personnel payroll, contracts for supplies and services, construction contracts, Veterans Administration expenditures, education and health care. Direct impact (without multipliers) was about $1.8 billion for FY 2020.
The full Fort Riley Economic Impact Summary is available at: https://home.army.mil/riley/application/files/5016/1065/0342/EIS_FY20_FINAL.pdf