News Briefs: Military contributes 30 percent of Pierce County economy

The economic impact of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base on the Pierce County economy totals $2.23 billion — or 30 percent of economic activity in the county. That’s the finding of economist Paul Sommers in a study for the Washington State Office of financial Management.

The spending comes from employment, payrolls, retiree pensions, payments to private health care providers and purchases from local vendors.

Sommers found, too, that the on-base employment of 34,600 is 14 percent of total employment in Pierce County; civilian and military workers at the bases earn almost 20 percent of earnings in the county and school districts in Pierce County receive $11 million a year for schooling of military dependents.

According to Sommers, the impact figure will grow significantly over the next year when 4,000 soldiers are transferred from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Fort Lewis.

The opening last month of the long-awaited North Sumner interchange on Highway 167 was an economic as much as a transportation event. The reason: an estimated 2,000 trucks a day no longer have to drive through downtown Sumner to reach the area’s distribution centers, giving them more direct and faster access to centers that include those run by Costco, REI and two companies supplying McDonalds. As a result, the interchange boosts the warehouse business in Sumner and relieves congestion downtown.

“Our community waited 15 years for this to happen,” says Andrew Neiditz, Sumner’s City Administrator. “The city has close to 2 million square feet of distribution space in the pipeline and this interchange will help to attract companies here.”

For more information about regional economic development, visit