Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC). This term will be frequently heard throughout the United States over the next 12 - 18 months. The Federal government has said approximately 25% of all U. S. military installations will be closed or substantially downsized. You might wonder, what in the world does that have to do with Emerald Isle, especially if you are a second homeowner. In my opinion, it should be very important to all of us.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point is a major component of our community and economy. It is Carteret County’s number one industry. Cherry Point employs 1,763 people from Carteret County. Also, nearly 1,000 military personnel reside in Carteret County. Average salaries for employees at Cherry Point are significantly higher than for other employers in the area. In FY 04, Cherry Point is projected to have total salaries exceeding $900,000,000. Fortunately for us, civilian employees and the military spend a lot of their income on goods and services provided locally.
Just as important as the economic impact, Cherry Point is a tremendous neighbor. Their mission is "To provide the best possible training facilities for the Fleet Marine Force and other members of the Department of Defense". They do this exceptionally well! In fact, they received the Commander In Chief's Installation of Excellence Award for 2003. Cherry Point willingly provides critical services to us. All of you are familiar with Pedro, the medical evacuation helicopter which has been used on numerous occasions to help local citizens and visitors in need. Just recently, the Explosive Ordinance Unit was called to investigate a suspicious package at the post office in Emerald Isle. MCAS Cherry Point has on several occasions combined their training needs with the needs for construction projects in the county, and has provided equipment and personnel. In all of these cases, services were provided free or at a minimal charge.
As individuals, the Marines have been excellent neighbors. Marines on their own time have come to the aid of numerous volunteer organizations throughout the county. Check out their web page atwww.cherrypoint.usmc.mil/CherryPointEconomicImpactFY04.pdf.
I can assure you there are many other organizations that they assist.
Without MCAS Cherry Point, Carteret County would experience a severe economic loss, which would negatively impact our local businesses. Very few businesses can rely solely on tourism as the tourist season continues to shorten. Many businesses will not make it if MCAS Cherry Point is downsized. We have grown to enjoy having many fine restaurants, places to shop, and service oriented businesses just around the corner. We don't want to lose any of them.
Some say Cherry Point is too big and too important to be downsized. While there is a certain amount of truth to that, we can not afford to sit and wait when many other states are spending millions of dollars to protect and to increase the size of their bases. We need to be open to what has to be done to protect Cherry Point and, ultimately, the citizens of Carteret County. Over the next year or so, I am sure there will be opportunities for you show support for Cherry Point. Please take that opportunity when it arises.