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Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 4:17am

Fort Stewart Community Looks Ahead

Despite more than $400 million of investment in southeast Georgia put on hold by an Army decision earlier this summer, communities around Fort Stewart are hopeful expansion plans will still take root.

Georgia U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson told local city and county leaders Monday there’s still hope to bring a new brigade of troops to Fort Stewart.

The senators say a Defense Department decision is expected in November on where to move a pair of European-based brigades, and they’re confident Fort Stewart would be in the running to land one of them. Chambliss and Isakson say local leaders will have the senators' full political support on the issue.

The region around the Army base was blindsided when Defense officials in June reversed course, pulling back the promise to relocate a different brigade of 5,000 troops to southeast Georgia.

With millions upon millions committed to infrastructure such as homes, Hinesville mayor Jim Thomas says the region’s been trying to refocus ever since:

"Once the announcement was made that we’re not getting the brigade, most of the construction had to stop. There is some continuation, but smaller contractors could not continue to construct things, not knowing whether they were going to get people to buy or occupy those apartments."

Thomas says Fort Stewart is a more than $4 billion economic engine for the five-county area around the base.