The military is expected to generate 10 percent of North Carolina’s total economy in 2013.
An analysis released this week by the N.C. Department of Commerce projects the gross economic impact of the military on North Carolina to be $48 billion, roughly 12 percent of the state gross product.
The military is generating an estimated 540,000 jobs: 340,000 private sector jobs, 140,000 federal military jobs, and 60,000 state and local government jobs. They come primarily from operations at seven military bases in the state but also include “spillover” from bases outside the state.
The report concludes that $30 billion in state personal income comes from the military.
Jimmy Sanders, president of the Allies For Cherry Point Tomorrow lobby group, said he had been on vacation and was busy campaigning for Havelock mayor and had not read the full report.
“But I’m not surprised to see this,” he said. “I think that anybody who doesn’t know how significant the military is to this state and area should read it though. That’s why we work so hard to save the goose that lays the golden egg.”
Marc Finlayson, director of ACT, said the report shows the importance of the military throughout the state.
“We certainly know around here because of Cherry Point, but the more the rest of North Carolina understands the importance, the better we all are as a state,” Finlayson said. “To the extent we can educate those in the areas of the state where its impact is not obvious, we should.”
With military drawdowns approaching as well as federal budget cuts impacting the military, Finlayson said he believes Gov. Pat McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker are aware of the military’s importance and are willing to help protect state military bases.
“It’s going to take a state effort to protect and grow our assets here,” he said.
According to the report, there were 108,926 active-duty military personnel assigned to all units in North Carolina as of March 31, with 46,674 Marines, including 7,100 at Cherry Point. Additionally by service branch, the Army has 48,982, the Air Force has 6,984, the Navy has 4,714, and the Coast Guard has 1,572 personnel.
Fleet Readiness Center East, the aircraft repair and maintenance facility at Cherry Point, is the largest civilian employer east of I-95 in the state with an annual payroll of $275 million.
The presence of the military in metropolitan areas in 2011 contributed to greater economic stability during the Great Recession, the report concluded, with recession unemployment lower than similar nonmilitary areas.
Contracts awarded mainly by the Department of Defense represent another significant source of jobs and revenue, according to the report. In 2012, those contracts totaled $3.44 billion in 82 counties, but mostly in 10 areas. The Eastern Region, including Craven, Onslow and Wayne counties, accounted for 33 percent of the revenue attached to 11,677 separate actions.
Craven County was third of the top 10 counties in North Carolina for DoD contract revenue with $190.4 million from 2,431 separate contracts.
The report, completed by the Commerce Department’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division, is supposed to be the most comprehensive breakdown and analysis of the military’s impact on North Carolina since 2008, before the major buildup that is now being trimmed down.
The report concluded that “having a strong military presence shapes North Carolina in other ways,” particularly the implications of the skills personnel can bring to the state’s workforce when they leave the military.
The military occupational mix shows areas of overlap with some of the state’s largest civilian occupational groups, including health care, automotive and transportation, food service, and emerging industry clusters such as aerospace and aviation-related industries.
The report notes that an average of 8,000 people per year left military service from 2007 to 2012, a figure expected to surge as the country winds down two major wars and realigns troop levels.
About 80 percent of those leaving the military from now through 2018 are expected to be 30 years old or younger, many with technical skills that could enhance the private sector economy, according to the report.
There are about 796,000 veterans who list North Carolina as home. That number is projected to be 150,000 less by 2040, the report said, a slower decline than other places, thereby increasing the state’s total share of the veteran population. That has implications for health care and other significant demographics for state and regional planning.
Sue Book is a reporter for the Sun Journal.