North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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Case studies government contracts to house service members and their families, expects to have built or remodeled about 3,100 homes in Tarawa Terrace and elsewhere to accommodate an infl ux of Marines, sailors and their family members at Lejeune and the Marine air stations at nearby New River and Cherry Point in Craven County. The rhythmic pounding of pile drivers and rumble of construction equipment are nearly as familiar now in North Carolina's military towns as the thump of distant artillery and the whine of jet fi ghters. Emily Sylvester, deputy director of Lejeune's installation-development division, says the value of the construction is about $3 billion. "Camp Lejeune is the point of the spear for preparing Marines for both air and ground combat," adds Joe Ramirez, a former Marine gunnery sergeant who is now government and external-affairs director for the base. "This is the launch point after they're trained for combat." The buildup has been going on since Tarawa Terrace II small Pacifi c atoll. It's part of Jackson- ville's Camp Lejeune, the heart of a military metropolis with a population of more than 180,000 Marines, sailors, dependents, retirees and civilian employees that's growing at a rate that makes the local economy arguably the strongest in the state. Figures for the Jacksonville metro- politan statistical area released in 2010 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed per capita income increased nearly 5% from the year before, to $44,664, the highest among North Carolina's metros. By 2013, Atlantic Marine Corps Communities LLC, the private Camp Lejeune-based company that holds 2008 as part of a plan Marines call Grow the Force. Initially, 11,000 additional active-duty personnel were expected here, but the number has mushroomed to 14,000. And this, now the nation's largest outpost of Marines and sailors, is only one facet of military expansion in the state. Here in coastal North Carolina and at Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro and at dozens of smaller bases and civilian manufacturing plants, research labs and other companies, the business of defense is boosting North Carolina's economy. "I wouldn't say it's exactly recession-proof," says Jim Kleckley, director of the Bureau of Business Research at East Carolina University in Greenville. "But it's certainly a lot more stable than the overall economy." An unstable, hostile world is the root cause for the growth, but there's more to the military's focus on North Carolina than that. Nearly two decades ago, the state began a transition from grudgingly tolerating the military to ardently North Carolina Economic Development Guide 35 Challenge: North Carolina can't offer tax or other cash incentives to recruit military expansions, so it had to fi nd another way to make itself desirable during times of base realignment. Solution: State and local offi cials began the lengthy process several years ago of transitioning from tolerating the military's presence in North Carolina to encouraging it.

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