National Security

Anchorage's growth industry? The military

A whopping 70 percent of the soldiers based at Fort Richardson have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan this year, not to return to Anchorage until 2010.

Add to that the soldiers who have deployed from Fairbanks' Fort Wainwright, and Alaska has lost more than 9,000 residents: over 1 percent of its population.

It's like the entire city of Sitka packed its bags and left the state for a year.

The mass deployments are tough for soldiers' families, and it also means less money for businesses clustered along Fort Rich: from burrito joints and bars to coin laundries and alterations shops.

But the size of the deployments also shows the tremendous growth at the fort: More soldiers have deployed from the Army post this year than were even stationed there in 2003. Just in the last six years, the population of active-duty soldiers at Fort Rich has doubled, according to the Army.

Even though there's a loss in economic activity when the soldiers are gone, the military is still a growth industry for Anchorage, said state economist Neal Fried.

Fried pointed out Tuesday that military construction is one of the few spots in the city's otherwise lagging construction industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars for construction has been approved for the next three years, according to the Army.

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