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Lejeune troops hear from NC Secretary of Commerce on changes

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — New economic engines are what would offset any impacts from changes to the military, according to the state’s commerce secretary.

“It’s about planning ahead because when you invest in one or two industries and they are impacted, it has an even bigger impact on the economy,” N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker said. “We are trying to diversify the economy of Eastern North Carolina and the whole state. We want to surround our military installations with business that will last as our situation ebbs and flows.”

Following a closed meeting on Thursday with staff from Marine Corps Installations East aboard Camp Lejeune, Decker discussed how commerce would be affected by the current military drawdown of troops. While it is hard to predict the impacts on individuals within our community, she said, a major crisis can be averted if businesses tap into the skills service members learn in uniform.

One of the things that may help the economy of Eastern North Carolina, she said, is bringing businesses that cater to the military closer to local bases. This, according to Decker, will allow transitioning service members to stay where they live and find a job they not only love but are familiar with.

Some of the businesses Decker hopes will come to Eastern North Carolina include aviation defense, food suppliers and military manufacturing. By being proactive, she said, and luring businesses to the local area the most damaging effects of a drawdown can be averted. Those effects include home and business foreclosure, homelessness and unemployment.

“What folks have learned on active service can be used in a lot of industries and that’s what we’re trying to bring here — jobs they’re used to,” Decker said. “So much of what they do is transferable and I’m not sure we’ve always thought about that, but we’re trying to do that now.”

While her trip to Camp Lejeune did include a tour of the base, Decker said the most important part of her trip was to feel the heartbeat of the base and hear from local leaders about Marines’ concerns, she said.

“Any cuts in military spending will impact us in North Carolina,” Decker said. “That’s the reason we need to be really focused and draw in businesses that can hire veterans and those transitioning. We need to build up enough here so that when there are military cuts, we don’t feel it as much.”

Sheila Pierce, the executive director of the Jacksonville-Onslow Economic Development office, said weathering the storm the drawdown will bring is not impossible for Onslow County. While she would not specify which companies are being sought after to come to Onslow County, she said that many are being courted.

The main reason for the visit to Camp Lejeune, Pierce said, was to reemphasize the value of the military to the Onslow County community and to North Carolina as a whole. She hopes that through the conversations between base leadership and the secretary that more business opportunities will be directed toward Onslow County.

“I believe everything (the secretary) spoke about is feasible for Onslow County,” Pierce said. “As we evaluate the specific needs of each of those companies, we will do our best to fit their needs. …And for the companies that we do already have, we will do our best to help them continue to grow and expand.”
 

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