Military expansion to pose challenges

Published 9:52 pm Friday, January 4, 2008

By Staff
Not a month goes by without reading how North Carolina has landed a new industry or business. Many employ fewer than 100 people. What would you think about a business that brought in 11,400 new jobs?
Well, eastern North Carolina is getting those new jobs, but the industry is far from new. It’s the military. Specifically, the U.S. Marine Corps.
By 2011, the Pentagon expects to have 11,477 more Marines and sailors at bases in Havelock and Jacksonville. If you consider the families that will come with them and the civilian workers that will support the additional Marines and sailors, you’re talking about 25,000 people. Some put the estimate at closer to 40,000.
Is North Carolina prepared for that kind of growth? That’s what a Military Growth Task Force is trying to answer. All those people will create millions of dollars of new income for regional businesses. That’s the good news. They will also require new housing and new schools. There are water issues, sewage issues and road issues that have to be addressed. That is going to require up-front money.
The 21-member group, headed by Jacksonville businessman Mike Alford, is getting $100,000 from the state to start addressing those issues.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point stands to get about 3,117 of the new Marines and sailors. The base is just an hour from Washington, and it already has a $1.4 billion impact on the region’s economy. According to Cherry Point’s latest economic impact report, the base has a military payroll of $671 million. Civilian workers account for another $375 million.
The task force members come from seven counties. Alford had headed an ad-hoc group in preliminary planning prior to an Oct. 12 announcement by Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson that more Marines are coming.
Dickerson commands Marine Corps Installations-East, which oversees Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and Cherry Point.
Alford is one of five appointees from Onslow County. Craven County also has five members, Carteret County has three, and Pamlico, Jones, Pender, and Duplin counties each have two members. It makes sense that Onslow and Craven counties would have more representatives on the panel because they are home to the bases.
The OEA is charged with helping communities cope when DoD installations either expand or contract.
He said Alford will call the group’s first meeting, most likely this month.
Task force members named from Craven County are Lonnie Pridgen, an N.C. Eastern Region board member and Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow treasurer; Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders, Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow president; Craven County Commissioner Theron McCabe, representing the district where Cherry Point is located; Sonny Roberts III, a member of the New Bern Military Alliance and Governor’s Military Advisory Committee; and Marvin Raines, an N.C. Military Alliance Board member.
Those from Onslow joining Alford are Dan Oliver of Progress Energy; Billy Sewell, a member of the N.C. Economic Development Board; retired USMC Col. William H. Keller III; and retired USMC Col. Pete Grimes.
Pamlico County’s representatives are commissioners Chairman Jack Douglas Brinson and Jayne Robb, county planner and economic developer. Jones County representatives are Commissioner Jessie Eubanks and County Manager Frankie Howard.
Delia said a $1 million application for federal economic adjustment money to set up the office and start the task force and staff’s work is expected to be approved in the first quarter of this year.
The expansion of the Marine Corps presence in North Carolina creates some exciting opportunities. Planning now for that expansion will be the key to how that expansion affects the region and state.