North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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Case studies Some attribute the courtship of the military to less mercenary reasons, including the public's feeling of vulnerability after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Others maintain that the thaw began a decade earlier, during the first Gulf War. Regardless of the reasons or timing, the state's aggressive military recruiting appears to be paying off. "Can we actually 'recruit' the military?" Nicholson asks. "That's a tough one. What we can do is show the Department of Defense that we have the assets and resources to support the military." Kleckley stops short, too, of suggesting that state efforts — promises of training assistance and other inducements — would influence outright a decision by the Pentagon to move a military unit. "We can probably influence things at the margins, certainly. If somebody puts hurdles around everything, I wouldn't think the Joint Chiefs of Staff or others making the decisions would look at that locale as favorably. It's extremely unlikely they'd build a new base somewhere just because of the recruiting, but it certainly doesn't hurt." The Army's decision to move com- The Army moved commands from Fort McPherson, near Atlanta, in part because of complaints from civilians who lived near the base. mands to Fort Bragg may be a case study in how North Carolina is exploiting its military climate. The Army closed Fort McPherson, Ga., on the outskirts of Atlanta, and moved about 6,000 jobs and service members to Fort Bragg. McPher- son had long fostered complaints from local residents and was surrounded by suburban development. To a degree, their complaints were founded. A military presence puts demands on communities in addition to its benefits. "Like any other industry, if you are attracting new bodies to an area, you're going to have demands on schools, roads, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure," Kleckley says. Around Fort Bragg, those impacts are already clear. School systems in the region are bracing for an additional 9,000 students by 2015, and new schools are expensive. Cumberland County officials say they expect to educate close to a third of the 40 North Carolina Economic Development Guide new pupils, necessitating building $70 million worth of schools. In addition, military growth at Lejeune and Fort Bragg is crowding highways. At Fort Bragg, nearly 50,000 service members, 5,400 private contractors, 11,000 civilian employees and more than 70,000 family members now fill the base daily, for a total of more than 136,000. That's expected to exceed 150,000 by 2015, further burdening roads and streets. However, the growing importance of Fort Bragg in a strategic sense, with the need to rush equipment and heavy material to the Army's Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point near Wilmington and to other East Coast ports, is accelerating projects that would languish otherwise. "The military in many ways takes property off the local tax books," Kleckley says. "So it's probably true that you get more [tax-revenue] bang for your buck from private industry. But these people are also buying from local businesses, and private contractors often want to move near where the military is. Those are some of the reasons people in eastern North Carolina are working to keep the military — to attract those private-sector industries that serve it." Fayetteville Mayor Anthony Chavonne knows there's a flip side to military growth. "For every community that's growing because of BRAC [the 2005 military base-closing act] there's one that's losing that $1 billion a year impact. I'd rather be the community gaining it." The state ranks third in the nation with more than 160,000 uniformed service mem- bers and civilians working on its military bases. But Dorney says there is room for growth. North Carolina only ranks 26th in volume of defense contracts. "When we started tracking that in 2005, it was about $2 billion a year," he says. "It was about $4 billion in 2009, so the trend was clearly up, though it dropped a little in 2010." Though welcoming to the military, the state faces a tough road in boosting its defense-contract numbers. Historically,

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