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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Two large construction contracts have pushed the impact Columbus Air Force Base has on the region’s economy to a record $343 million, but it won’t last.

Base leaders say the end of the contracts, furloughs that take effect next month and other spending cuts will significantly reduce the ripple effect of base spending for this and future years.

The contract to refurbish the base’s center runway was included in last year’s impact because that’s when the funding was awarded, but the work will be completed by September. The same goes for a $23 million contract to rebuild the base medical center. Those contracts helped push the 2012 economic impact well above the previous year’s $261.6 million. The previous base impact records were in 2007 and 2009 when the regional impact reached almost $290 million and total employment was almost 3,200.

The construction contracts put base-related job totals at a record 3,622 with almost 600 of those being construction related.

Col. Jim Sears says the impact this year and next likely will be $250 million or less, lower than it has been in any of the last five years.

“I would not expect 2013 to be as big as previous years. That puts it down to about $250 million or less,” Sears told the Base Community Council in his annual report.

The 11 furlough days forced on the 472 civilian personnel at the base will save about $1.5 million at CAFB but the impact of those savings on local businesses will be more.

The colonel says the furloughs and other spending cuts which have become part of “every airman’s mentality” also will have an impact.

Sears says other bases are seeing similar reductions meaning Columbus likely will continue to have a bigger impact than other training bases do on their communities.

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