Local News

Group Takes Aim at Winning More Defense Contracts for N.C.

Posted December 4, 2006 1:58 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2006 9:50 p.m. EST

— State officials on Monday announced the creation of a foundation that will look for ways to lure more military-related investment to North Carolina.

Although North Carolina ranks third in terms of "boots on the ground" -- the number of military personnel stationed and trained in the state -- it garners $3 billion of the $82 billion in military contracts awarded each year to rank 38th in defense spending.

Fort Bragg, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Camp Lejeune and other military installations produce an estimated $18 billion economic impact in North Carolina. But state leaders said the investment from defense contracts isn't proportional.

"The next big untapped economic giant for North Carolina is the military defense industry," Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "This is something new that's sitting out there that we haven't taken care of. It's just a time and place that we need to harness it, and that's what it's about."

The North Carolina Military Foundation, which held its first meeting Monday, is chaired by Gen. Buck Kernan, who became a successful businessman after retiring from the Army. The board of directors is comprised of retired military leaders and corporate partners.

Peace College political science professor David McLennan said most military contracts have flown by North Carolina because the state's congressional delegation lacks influential positions on the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. Also, states like California and Washington make defense spending a higher priority, he said.

"Politically, we've not had much clout," McLennan said. "They're lobbying to get more defense contractor dollars back into their states."

Five corporations -- Progress Energy, Duke Energy, General Dynamics, Parsons Corp. and Wachovia -- have pledged a combined $1 million to help the foundation get organized and start chasing contracts.

"This unique organization is key to cultivating defense-related industry that can have a dramatic impact on North Carolina’s economy," John Suttle, senior director of communications for General Dynamics, said in a statement. "This state is very well-suited for defense-related companies."