Defense activity in Okaloosa County, and Florida as a whole, has longbeen a major contributor to employment opportunities, sales revenue, and tax revenues. As the largest installation in the Department of Defense, Eglin Air Force Base covers 724 square miles encompassing almost half of Okaloosa County’s land mass.
Eglin hosts the Joint Gulf Range Complex, recognized as a national asset, connecting test and training ranges in Northwest Florida south to Key West. It includes 180,000 square miles of DoD controlled airspace, Eglin’s 724 square miles of land ranges, and 17 miles of shoreline access.
In Okaloosa County, defense-related spending accounts for 73% of economic activity.
About 35% of Northwest Florida regional output is driven by defense spending.
Defense activities in Northwest Florida generate an estimated 192,000 jobs.
The strong military presence in Okaloosa County creates a technical & economic foundation for growth & expansion.
The defense-related spending in Okaloosa County generates additional employment, wages, consumption, spending, and investments throughout the county and continues to produce more spending as it circulates throughout the region’s economy. The military installations in the county further generate employment by contracting with local businesses and national businesses that have facilities in the area.
Seven of the ten largest defense contractors in the State of Florida have a presence in Okaloosa County.
An industry cluster of these targeted businesses catering to the local military installations has developed over the years. These businesses, of which there are approximately 300 in Okaloosa, work with local suppliers to obtain the goods and services necessary to meet the needs of the military; creating jobs and sustaining the economy.
Due to the high density of technology-based and defense contracting firms located here, the EDC created the Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network, TeCMEN. TeCMEN is a collaborative network of high-technology, manufacturing and engineering service companies working together to promote economic and technological growth within the community.
Contributing to Okaloosa’s labor force are highly skilled military veterans. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs there are just under 33,000 veterans living in Okaloosa County in 2015 which is over 15% of Okaloosa’s total population. Based on data provided by the US Department of Veterans affairs and the US Census’ American Community survey:
Veterans population will grow by nearly 1,000 in Okaloosa County by 2022 and grow to nearly 36,000 by the 2040s.
Cash flows through the Department of Veterans Affairs in support of these individuals totals well over $200 million annually.
Military separations in Okaloosa County average approximately 1,200 per year from Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. Data drawn from the Defense Manpower Data Center indicate that:
The total number of individuals separating from the military across Northwest Florida and within Okaloosa County is relatively stable over time with little annual variance. Thus, these skilled individuals provide a stable, annual pool from which to draw talent into local industries.
The average annual separations patterns, with respect to skill sets, overlap with key sectors of Okaloosa County’s economy and with key sectors that are identified as “targets” for future economic development.
These sectors include:
The individuals separating from the military have solid “soft skills” training (punctuality, the ability to follow directions, etc.) that matches the “hard skills” acquired in the military. In many cases and with minimal skills upgrade, these individuals can function in a variety of cross-cutting economic sectors.
Source: Exponential Analytics, Inc.; CareerSource Florida