The federal government's trying to save money, cutting a quarter of all military bases. It's the base realignment and closure committee, or BRAC, that strikes close to home in the Low Country and Coastal Empire, with bases up and down the coast. So Hilton Head Island's ready to defend Beaufort County's bases.
With the three different bases in northern Beaufort County, there's close to half a billion dollars pumping into the local economy. Without hesitating, Hilton Head's town council voted Tuesday to send $10,000 to the Military Enhancement Committee (MEC), a group of volunteers fighting to keep Beaufort's three bases open.
"If you don't have food, medicine, cars, all the different things being purchased, if you don't have the families coming to see the recruits graduate, you're not going to have businesses that survive," said deputy town manager Chuck Hoelle. Hoelle serves on the MEC, and says Hilton Head Island can't afford to shoulder the devastating economic losses if the Beaufort bases close.
Some businesses agree, even if the island can support itself easily enough with vacationers. "Getting good, dedicated employees is one of the largest problems that we have in Beaufort County," said Gary Sims of the Holiday Inn Oceanfront. With an already-low unemployment rate, the loss of one or more bases would be tough to handle for island businesses. "We have a lot of dependants of soldiers who are there that fill some of those jobs," said Sims. "Without those individuals, the void would be even larger."
The MEC plans to keep that from happening, and will use Hilton Head's donation to help open an office. So far, the State of South Carolina, Beaufort County, the City of Beaufort and the towns of Port Royal and Hilton Head Island have combined for $175,000 in donations for the MEC.