Turning a loss into a major gain

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It’s been nearly five years since officials with the Alabama National Guard retired Greenville’s Fort Robert E. Steiner.

The armory had been in the Camellia City for nearly six decades, and time had taken its toll.

It was one of 13 armories that was closed due to a variety of factors, such as the age and condition of the facilities, the ability to respond to statewide to disasters, and the locations of units in relation to their headquarters were considered when determining which armories would be closed.

Ultimately a leaky roof spelled the end for the old armory.

Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama National Guard adjutant general, said that the decision to close the armories wasn’t a decision that was made lightly and that the impact the closings would have on the 13 communities was considered.

While the loss of the armory seemed to be a dark cloud for our community, it may ultimately end up being a silver lining.

On Monday, the City of Greenville took its first step toward securing what many are calling super armories by agreeing to purchase 40 acres of land from Soterra, LLC to swap with the National Guard for Fort Robert E. Steiner.

A super armory is a central training point for units across the state.

What does that mean for Greenville?

It could mean 250 to 500 citizen soldiers visiting the Camellia City each weekend as they train at the new armory, which if all goes as planned, will be located near Manningham Loop between exits 128 and 130.

That means money flowing into our local economy.

You don’t have to hold a degree in finance to know that’s a good thing.

Mayor Dexter McLendon, who helped bring Cambrian Ridge and Hwashin America to town, said the addition of a super armory to the city could his biggest win as a city official.

“It would be a game changer,” McLendon said.

If (make thet IF) the city is successful in its bid to land the super armory, it will likely give the city leverage to attract more businesses to the area, such as additional hotels and restaurants, which will in turn create jobs.

The new armory will also serve as a catalyst for the development of the city’s south exit, which has been largely untapped.

“From an economic standpoint it would be huge,” McLendon said.

The loss of Fort Robert E. Steiner was a sad day for the Camellia City.

Certainly no one wanted to see it closed.

But years from now, we may look back at that day in 2011 as the beginning of something great in Greenville.