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Growth partnership hires director
Area management group still hiring
Don Emmons Picture
Mayor Don Emmons - photo by Courier file photo
The Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership has hired Jeff Ricketson as director.
During a meeting Tuesday representatives from Liberty, Bryan, Long and Tattnall counties voted unanimously for the Florida resident.
The partnership is preparing for an estimated new 10,000 soldiers and families on Fort Stewart during the next two years.
“All of our needs will be able to be channeled to that source,” Chairman John McIver said.
Two other finalists for the position will be given the opportunity to apply for a deputy director position.
“We determined we need actually two people to do this,” McIver said.
The Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment agreed to put up $696,860 for the 12 to 18 months the group is scheduled to last. The partnership is putting up a 10 percent in-kind match.
Funds have not been dispersed and can be revised to include a deputy director’s salary.
Salaries for the two positions and a consulting firm are being negotiated, but OEA agreed to fully fund the positions.
Being involved with the federal agency validates the four-county effort and offers leverage with potential support organizations, according to OEA representatives Frank Barton and Amber Levofsky.
“Because right now there’s nothing in place to assist communities like Hinesville with growth, when the rubber meets the road,” Barton said. “It’s OEA that’s really carrying the water for these communities.”
Levofsky said OEA stresses to Congress the project is valid and needed.
“The idea behind it is to take [a] project needs assessment to stress the need,” Levofsky said.
Will Ingram with Fort Stewart master planning estimated 2,000 contractors will come with the swell of soldiers.
But municipal representatives, especially Midway Mayor Don Emmons, wanted to assure locals would get the jobs.
He said area residents have heard of the growth and potential jobs.
“I think it would be appropriate to satisfy some of our requirements in the county,” Emmons said.
It was suggested that job openings be posted on government Web sites.
Ingram said usually there is no point of contact and no way to tell what will be open. The Army contracts much of the work out and the contractor hires employees and subcontractors.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, a former Fort Stewart project manager, agreed.
“When primary contracts are awarded, sub-contractors hire from wherever they chose,” Thomas said. “There generally isn’t a point of contact.”
He said contractors and their “supply apparatus” are already showing up.
“Before we move the first soldier, we’ll have those contractors here,” Thomas said. 
“So it falls on this growth management group to think about how to organize civilian opportunity,” said Tom Ratcliffe, former Hinesville mayor who is also representing Georgia Military Affairs Committee.
Ratcliffe was also concerned about double-counting anticipated soldiers, considering what happens when units deploy, come back and redeploy.
He asked garrison commander Col. Todd Buchs if deployments could be predictable.
“It continues to change,” Buchs said. “The division seems to be fairly stable as far as their October deployment…Right now anything beyond that is just so fluid.”
“We try to position the community so we can support the military, but the real issue is you can’t totally anticipate that entirely,” Thomas agreed. “We just have to adjust as we go.”
“OEA sees us working with you far past 2011…to get the infrastructure off the ground that you need,” Levofsky said. “Who’s to say what funding will be available [then].”
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