Officials react to military draw down impacts on Onslow County economy

Officials react to military draw down impacts on Onslow County economy

JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has proposed military spending cuts that could mean downsizing the Marine Corps even more, should sequestration return in 2016.

While we're in the midst of a draw down, many people are wondering how this could affect the local economy in Onslow County.

Officials say certain small businesses that rely on mostly military customers to make a profit, could be affected by the draw down.

Mike Eaton is the manager of Bombs Away Tattoo -- one of those small businesses that could see changes.

"Tattooing -- it thrives off of military," Eaton said. "We would definitely suffer. I think the tattooing industry would be the first to see it."

Between 2012 and 2017 across Camp Lejeune, the New River Air Station and Cherry Point, the Marine Corps will shrink by the thousands.

"We'll see a reduction of about 10,000 to 12,000 personnel over that time period, and we're already seeing the first bow wave of fiscal austerity already happening here," said Nat Fahy, director of public affairs for Camp Lejeune.

The Fiscal Year 2015 Defense budget proposes if sequestration happens again in 2016, the Marine Corps could draw down even more, to as little a force as 175,000 troops nationwide.

But Chamber of Commerce President Laurette Leagon says Onslow County as a whole can stay strong.

"We do have industry, we do have commercial, we have the franchises," Leagon said. "When you have a mixed economy, then you can weather these bumps in the road, if you will."

Her colleague, Jacksonville-Onslow Economic Development Director Sheila Pierce, says the area is used to these cutbacks.

"Having been here for about 34 years and a good part of that actually in real estate, where you truly felt the ups and downs, we've actually watched the military population grow and decline and grow and decline more than once here," Pierce said.

Eaton also sees Marines coming and going from deployments, which he says has affected business in the past, so he'll do his best to deal with a permanent cutback.

"We're probably stressing the things we have done in the past, customer service -- trying to value the people we do have, so they're here for us," Eaton said. "We're not feeling it yet, but you never know what's going to happen."

Marine Corps officials in Quantico, Va. tell NewsChannel 12 that the proposed budget will be submitted to Congress for review next Tuesday.

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