There’s still plenty of work to do on the ten –year, five-billion dollar chemical weapon clean-up at the Bluegrass Army Depot. Still, leaders in the public and private sectors are already wondering ‘What’s next?’ A long term economic study could provide an answer. It’ could be a dozen years before the last of the chemical munitions stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot is neutralized. Then, as many as two thousand of people who worked on the clean-up will need new jobs. With some planning, David Dutlinger, who’s with the Bluegrass Area Development District, thinks they can find a new mission, but there needs to be a game plan.
“Without planning for this event, there will be very much a boom cycle which will take place in Madison County, followed by a bust if something is not done,” said Dutlinger.Already, staff reductions at the Bluegrass Army Depot seem likely. With America’s overseas wars winding down, fewer munitions must be managed by the depot and employment there could soon drop by as many as 300 people. “No question in my mind that that’s coming to a close and as it does, the military will draw down and has to draw down and there will be less expenditures”added Dutlinger Data needed for such economic planning will be gathered, thanks to a 120-thousand dollar grant. Bluegrass Area Development District and the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board will work with the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board on the project. For example, the private sector could put some of the idled Depot’s workers to work on other missions on site….such as processing hazardous chemicals. Richmond Chamber of Commerce Director Mendi Goble says all possibilities should be investigated... “Go after those kind of industries or businesses and bring those to Madison County and be able to save some of those jobs,” said Goble. The economic study will first focus on ways to avoid job loss and potential uses of the depot facility. Then, phase two will look into possible uses for depot land.