Joint Base Charleston

The sun rises over Joint Base Charleston's line of C-17's Tuesday August 16, 2016. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

About one out of every 10 people you meet locally has a connection to the military.

The Charleston area has the largest military presence in the state — 3,810 service members, 71,011 veterans and 4,612 Department of Defense civilians, according to a study released Wednesday.

And they pump about $10.6 billion to the local economy, about 43 percent of the $24.1 billion annual impact the military has on the entire state. That's up from $19.3 billion cited in the last study two years ago.

"The Economic Impact of South Carolina's Military Community," a 64-page report produced by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, was presented at a meeting of the state Military Base Task Force at Joint Base Charleston on Wednesday.

“We were very pleased at the numbers,” said Bill Bethea, chairman of the state Military Base Task Force. “It’s a huge chunk of our economy. I think that fact is not well-known, so now that we’ve got this very credible document, it’s our challenge to try to make it better known.”

Because military facilities are funded through the federal government, their expenditures represent an injection of new funds into the state’s economy, leading to an increase in jobs and income for the state, according to the report.

In the Lowcountry, the study looked at Joint Base Charleston, the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense contracting firms, military retirees and veterans, and portions of the S.C. National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

Charleston’s woes from the 1990s, when the Naval Base and Shipyard was ordered closed, eliminating thousands of jobs, now seem a distant past.

The total economic impact of Joint Base Charleston on South Carolina — including all operations, in-state procurement, and military and civilian payroll — is $8.7 billion annually and 50,303 jobs.

Joint Base Charleston is a merger of Charleston Air Force Base and Naval Weapons Station Charleston created in 2010 as a result of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure study.

The Coast Guard adds another $150.7 million and 1,340 jobs locally, while the Army Corps of Engineers’ impact is $58.3 million and 451 jobs.

“We believe that we’ve got a product now that adequately reflects the impact that the military community has on South Carolina,” Beatty said of the study.

Statewide, one in every 12 jobs, or 8.4 percent, is military, with the average salary at $54,701 per year.

The study looked at the state’s eight major military installations and numerous facilities that weren’t included in earlier iterations of the report, including the Coast Guard, Savannah River Site and the Army Corps of Engineers, said task force executive committee member Dan Beatty.

There are 62,250 Department of Defense personnel in the state, the 10th highest total in the nation.

It also included military retirees and veterans for the first time. The state has the ninth highest military retiree population, half of which are under 65 years old.

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

Among the veterans are 56,969 retirees who bring in $1.6 billion in Department of Defense-funded retirement income and $1.9 billion in compensation and pensions, Beatty said.

“Most retirees are somewhere between 38 and 44 years of age,” Beatty said. “They’re looking to get into their second career. ... Why not retain them in South Carolina? We have expansion of industry in South Carolina. We have a tight labor market with only about 4.4 percent unemployment. You have a cadre of folks that you can potentially employ.”

Retirees can use military facilities such as medical care, commissary and recreational facilities, making them more likely to permanently locate in South Carolina after retirement.

The report will be available at scmilitarybases.com.

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