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Economic impact of S.C. military community hits $24.1B

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The Palmetto State’s military community collectively creates an annual economic impact of $24.1 billion, according to a new study released by the S.C. Military Base Task Force.

The study, prepared by Joey Von Nessen of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, notes that the state is home to eight major military installations and numerous facilities, supporting 62,520 in Department of Defense personnel with $2.6 billion in payroll. Additionally, $2.1 billion in Defense Department contracts is currently being spent with 752 S.C. firms, the report said.

The study says the military community represents 8.4% of the S.C. economy, composed of 181,847 jobs, or one of every 12 jobs in the state. The average compensation for jobs supported by the military community is $54,701 per year, 37% higher than the average job.

In the Midlands, Fort Jackson’s economic impact totals $2.2 billion a year to the state, the report said. Fort Jackson, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has a workforce of 7,500 military and civilian members.

The combination of payroll, goods and services provided by local suppliers, translate to a total of 19,848 jobs in the Midlands and approximately $1 billion in income.

"A very large contributor to our military-friendly reputation and its accompanying positive economic impact is the presence of 417,515 military veterans," Howard Metcalf, director of the S.C. Division of Veterans' Affairs and a member of the task force, said in a statement. The VA "has said there are perhaps twice that many veterans in the state because that count only includes those who have applied for services," Metcalf said.

Among those veterans are 56,969 retirees who annually bring $1.6 billion in Defense Department-funded retirement income into the state, and the VA contributed an additional $1.9 billion in compensation and pensions, said retired Army Col. Dan Beatty, who’s a member of the task force's executive committee.

"A large number of those retirees have second careers and bring tremendous experience and skills to the state workforce," he said.

According to Von Nessen, access to a large supply of highly skilled workers will be especially needed in 2017.

"One of the less-known benefits of the military community to South Carolina is the pool of skilled workers it provides to the state," Von Nessen said. "South Carolina's labor market has tightened considerably within the last year and, with an unemployment rate under 5% and employers continuing to expand, access to these skilled veterans is crucial for maintaining our current healthy rate of economic growth."

The study estimates the annual S.C. state tax revenue generated by the military community is approximately $884.1 million. 

"South Carolina is blessed with a significant number of important economic engines, including the S.C. State Ports Authority, tourism and great manufacturing, such as BMW, Boeing and Michelin, to name a few," said task force Chairman Bill Bethea. "Given the enormous impact of the military community on our economy, as evidenced by the 2017 report, the military presence surely is one of the leaders in that category."

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