Shaw Air Force Base is contributing more than $1.5 billion to the Sumter area economy each year, according to an economic impact study of the military in South Carolina. The updated study, released by the South Carolina Military Base Task Force, reflects that the South Carolina military community collectively creates an economic impact of $24.1 billion to the state.
The 2017 study was prepared by Joey Von Nessen of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. According to the report, the Palmetto State is home to eight major military installations and numerous facilities, supporting 62,520 Department of Defense personnel with $2.6 billion in payroll. Additionally, $2.1 billion in DoD contracts is currently being executed among 752 firms within the state, the report said.
Former Sumter Mayor Steve Creech, who is a member of the task force and chairman of the Sumter Military Affairs Committee, said the study shows the importance of the military to the economy, especially in Sumter.
"It is our Boeing, it is our BMW," he said. "It has carried us through tough times."
The 2017 study reports that the military community represents 8.4 percent of the South Carolina economy, including 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 percent higher than the average job.
"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, S.C. director of Veterans Affairs and a member of the task force. "The Veteran's 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 those veterans are 56,969 retirees who annually bring $1.6 billion in DoD-funded retirement income into the state, and the VA contributed another $1.9 billion in compensation and pensions," said Dan Beatty, a recently retired Army Colonel and member of the executive committee of the task force, who established his post-military career in the Palmetto State.
Creech said the South Carolina General Assembly needs to be made aware of what's needed to attract military retirees to the Palmetto State.
"The Sumter delegation understands that, but the general delegation does not," he said. "The way you attract military retirees is you do not tax their retirement. Texas doesn't do that, Florida doesn't do that and Georgia and North Carolina have changed the way they do that."
According to Von Nessen, access to a large supply of highly-skilled workers will be especially needed in South Carolina, and military retirees can help bring that.
"One of the less-known benefits of the military community to South Carolina is the pool of skilled workers it provides to the state," said Von Nessen. "South Carolina's labor market has tightened considerably within the last year, and, with an unemployment rate under 5 percent and employers continuing to expand, access to these skilled veterans is crucial for maintaining our current healthy rate of economic growth."
The 2017 report estimates the annual South Carolina 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. 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."
The full text of the 2017 report is available at www.scmilitarybases.com.