Military community contributes $34B to SC economy, report shows

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 8:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2022 at 10:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina leaders say the state’s expansive military presence is a vital part of its economy, and new figures reveal just how much.

A study commissioned by the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs found the military community contributes $34.3 billion annually to the state’s economy.

“South Carolina’s military community is critical not only to our state but to our nation as a whole,” South Carolina Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R – Sumter, said last week at a ceremonial signing for a new law that eliminates taxes on military retirement income.

University of South Carolina Research Economist Joey Von Nessen, who conducted the study, said three main components are driving those figures: the state’s eight military installations, the 670 contractors who work with those installations, and the service members who contribute.

South Carolina has the 10th-most active duty and reserve personnel among all states and the eighth-highest military retiree population, with more than 63,000 retirees.

“Active duty, reservists, as well as our veterans, all of which are spending money in the local economy, and that is supporting local businesses as well,” Von Nessen said.

The study found that $34.3 billion impact makes up about 11% of South Carolina’s economy, with the military community directly or indirectly supporting more than 254,000 jobs, about one in every nine jobs in the state.

“In general, if we look at the military footprint overall, it does have the equivalent effect of one of the state’s largest industry sectors,” Von Nessen said.

The regions of the state benefiting the most are where those installations are located.

The Charleston area leads the way, bringing in $12.7 billion annually, with Joint Base Charleston responsible for much of that, while the Columbia Midlands region follows at $6.6 billion, thanks in large part to Fort Jackson.

But Von Nessen said the military’s footprint extends to all 46 counties.

“That’s because the installations themselves are located throughout the state, but the contractors that are supporting them are also located throughout the state, and we also have to think about the veterans and the retirees also living all across South Carolina,” he said.

This year’s $34 billion economic impact is up about 35% from the last time the study was completed in 2019.

Von Nessen said part of that rise is due to an actual increase in economic activity, along with the study itself being more thorough this time.

For example, he pointed to it now taking into account those service members who may work right across the state line in the Augusta area at Fort Gordon but live and spend their money in South Carolina.

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