Beaufort County is fortunate to be home to military installations that provide for our national security and serve as economic engines.
The Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, for example, generates $702 million in economic activity each year and employs more than 8,500 people full time. Every 10 of those full-time positions supports about seven additional full-time jobs off base, according to the most recent state economic impact study. The Air Station and Parris Island jointly pump nearly $1.3 billion into our economy annually.
We all benefit from these installations and are also well-served when we retain these skilled service members after they retire from military life. They buy homes and cars, frequent area stores -- thereby increasing our tax base while also building our labor pool.
So how do we keep them in our region? A new program at the Technical College of the Lowcountry aims to do just that.
So far, nearly 100 veterans and active-duty service members have passed one of three courses offered through the college's Transitioning Military Program, which is in its first year.
The majority of those who have passed the courses have gone on to get federal licenses and start new civilian careers.
Even better, the courses are free, thanks to a state grant. But the grant is scheduled to run out at the end of the college's fiscal year. TCL president Richard Gough said he is working to secure more funding for 2015 and beyond.
The free program couldn't come at a better time. Sequester cuts and military personnel reductions mean the area is seeing increasing numbers of retiring service members, many with experience in areas like aviation. But, understandably, not all retirees see how to translate those skills into a living post-military. Others can't afford the cost of retraining programs.
The installations and related groups offer services to help with the transition. The TCL courses provide yet another opportunity.
And with the possibility of future base closures and cutbacks, it's important that our region show we're doing all we can to support our military personnel, including those who have retired.
We hope future funding is secured for the program, and additional veterans get help starting the next chapter in their lives.
It's not only a way to salute our service members, but to bolster our region's economy.