Military retirees bring money, skills

 Sure, getting new businesses helps an area, but so does having a large
population of military retirees  who bring fresh dollars and skills to the local
economy.

 Nearly 55,000 military retirees in 18 counties and parishes in the Gulf Coast I-10
region receive close to $143 million every month in Department of Defense
retirement payments, according to the latest figures from the DoD Office of the
Actuary.
The figures as of Sept. 30, 2020, show the financial impact of military retirees to the
region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida. The retiree pay does not
include retired members of the U.S. Coast Guard, part of the Department of
Homeland Security.
While all economic development officials strive to attract new businesses and help
businesses already there, attracting military retirees is also high on the list. The
larger the number of military retirees, the larger the infusion of federal dollars into the
local economy. But there’s much more beyond the dollars.
Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Okaloosa Economic Development Council,
says that while it's apparent the federal retirement dollars helps the local economy,
having so many former military is indicative of a skill pipeline that appeals to
businesses.
“It’s vitally important for us,” and a major piece of the county’s economic
development effort, he says. Retired military, along with veterans who do not get a
retirement check, provide a pool of skilled talent.
“They are uniquely qualified to transition into a number of jobs,” Sparks says. “By
and large they are excellent private sector employees. We find that it resonates” with
existing and new businesses alike.
Sparks says that today 50 percent of those transitioning from military to civilian life
from area bases stay in Okaloosa County. Just four years ago it was 35 percent.
Okaloosa County is one of five counties in Northwest Florida that account for just
under $102.4 million in retiree pay every month, followed by three counties in South
Mississippi, which account for nearly $20.8 million. Military retirees from eight
parishes in Southeast Louisiana bring in just over $10 million while two counties in
South Alabama account for nearly $9.6 million.
The breakdown is as expected since military retirees frequently chose to enter
civilian life in areas with bases and associated facilities that they can use. Northwest
Florida is home to the most military bases in the I-10 region.

Northwest Florida
Florida, already one of the nation’s leading retirement destinations, is aggressive in
recruiting military retirees. There’s no state income tax, so no tax on military
pensions. The state highlights the large number of bases in Florida, meaning retirees
have easy access to on-base amenities like golf courses, health clubs, and tax-free
shopping. Florida is also among the states with programs to help military retirees
transition into new careers.
Northwest Florida is a hot spot for military bases, and five counties there have
37,203 military retirees paid by DoD, according to figures from the Office of the
Actuary.
Okaloosa County, home of sprawling Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Duke
Field, has the largest number of military retirees, 14,386, most retired from the Air
Force. They receive $40,804,000 every month from DoD.
The home of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Escambia County is next with 10,122
mostly Navy retirees, who receive $27,677,000 from DoD. Next is Santa Rosa
County, home of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, with 8,261 military retirees, mostly
Air Force. They receive $21,605,000 every month from DoD. The large number of Air
Force retirees is likely due to the county's proximity to Eglin and Hurlburt immediately
to the east of Santa Rosa County.
Bay County, home of Tyndall Air Force Base and the Naval Support Activity Panama
City, has 2,812 mostly Air Force military retirees paid $7,872,000, and Walton
County, home of Eglin's Site C-6 radar installation, has 1,622 military retirees. Most
of those retirees are from the Air Force, and they are paid $4,435,000 per month.

South Mississippi
In South Mississippi, Harrison County, home of Keesler Air Force Base and the
Naval Construction Battalion Center, has 5,875 military retirees, most from the Air
Force, paid $13,134,000 per month by DoD. Jackson County has the next largest
number of military retirees, most from the Air Force, with 2,732 paid $6,177,000
every month. Last is Hancock County, home of NASA's Stennis Space Center and its
largest tenant, the Navy. It has 640 mostly Navy retirees, paid $1,475,000 per month.

Southeast Louisiana
In Southeast Louisiana, St. Tammany Parish has 2,100 mostly Navy retirees who
receive $5,327,000 per month from DoD, followed by Orleans Parish with 1,122. Most
of Orleans Parish retirees are Navy, paid $2,691,000 per month. Jefferson Parish
has 577 mostly Navy retirees paid $1,158,000 every month.
Retirees in five other parishes receive less than $1 million a month: St. Charles, 290,
mostly Army, paid $590,000; St. Bernard, 93 mostly Army, paid $164,000; St. John
the Baptist, 33, almost evenly split between the Air Force and Navy, paid $56,000; St.
James, 27 evenly split between Air Force and Army retirees, who are paid $53,000;
and Plaquemines, 19 retirees paid $42,000, almost evenly split between the Marines,
Army and Navy.

South Alabama
In South Alabama, Baldwin County, home of several Navy outlying landing fields and
immediately west of Escambia County, Fla., has 2,800 military retirees, most from the
Army, who receive $7,264,000 every month. Mobile County, has 1,111 military
retirees, most from the Army, paid $2,325,000.

The number of retirees who receive monthly checks is not an exact reflection of the
number or military retirees. All of the counties also have military retirees whose net
pay is zero or less after any Survivor Benefit premium deductions and other offsets
such as Veterans Administration payments and waiving retirement pay to receive a
Civil Service Annuity.
Compared with other retirees, people who retire from the military are often younger.
Service members typically can retire after twenty years of service and collect 50
percent of their salary for the rest of their lives. Those who serve longer than twenty
years receive a higher payout.
WalletHub in May 2020 ranked Florida second after Virginia as the best state for
military retirees. Alabama was sixth, Louisiana 31st and Mississippi 46th.
In order to determine the best and worst states for military retirement, WalletHub
compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1)
economic environment, 2) quality of life and 3) healthcare.
The US military offers very generous pension benefits. After 20 years of service,
members can retire with 50 percent of their final salary for the rest of their lives.
Since that allows most to retire around age 40, the payouts may last for a very long
time (and they are also adjusted for inflation).
Generally, economists are usually the most interested in how capital infusions
positively affect income. Most economists believe that capital infusions of any kind,
whether from the governmental or corporate level, will have a broad snowball effect
on various aspects of economic activity.

- David Tortorano
Feb. 9, 2021
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