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Friday, February 8, 2013 - 1:02pm

RAFB Economic Impact Figures Misleading

The economic impact of Robins Air Force Base on Middle Georgia dropped by about a billion dollars over the last fiscal year, according to the annual analysis prepared by the base’s own accountants.

The base’s contribution to the surrounding economy dropped by a quarter, from around $4 billion in FY 2011 to $3 billion in 2012.

It looks bad, but looks can be deceiving.

The eye-popping discrepancy is due to a long-planned change in the way the impact is calculated, said Scott Boyd, who led the analysis.

For the FY 2012 statement released Friday, they stopped counting contributions to employee retirement plans and health benefits, because those dollars are not immediately spent in the community.

"Those retirement benefits will be paid in the future, so the economic impact will just be shifted to a future year when those people retire," Boyd said. "If they stay around here, those dollars will still be spent, it’s just that they weren’t spent in 2012."

The new counting methodology brings Robins in line with Tinker and Hill Air Force bases, which Air Force officials partially consolidated with Robins last year.

When applying the new counting method to the prior year’s figures, Boyd says the economic contributions of Robins to the surrounding region actually rose by about $100 million.