Marine Deployment Raises Economic Concerns - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/29/04

Marine Deployment Raises Economic Concerns

More than 10,000 Marines and sailors will soon be heading to Iraq, including 1,000 Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

The Tri-Command pumps an estimated $454 million into the local economy each year. Now, with so many Marines and sailors leaving, the local economy could take a big hit.

"Anytime one unit or 12 units deploy, it has some impact on our economy," said Libby Barnes with the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce. "The families that live here while their loved ones are gone may tend to spend less money. Some of these major purchasing decisions may wait till they return."

But, Roberto Martinez, the manager of a local Wal-Mart, says he doesn't expect too much of a decline in sales.  "They tend to slack off on the toys and things they don't need," he told us. "But what doesn't change is the household products, the cleaning supplies and everyday necessities."

That's because in the past, military families have stayed in Beaufort despite the deployments. In fact, Wal-Mart didn't experience too much of a loss when most of the local Marines and sailors deployed during the beginning of the war. "We figured we were going to lose ten percent, but to only lose five percent, we felt that was great."

Local merchants are hoping the Marines' families will stay again through this deployment. At this time, they have not said which squadrons will be leaving. But we do know it will include engineers, air traffic controllers, at least one F/A-18 squadron and other support personnel.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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