Local News

Region Brands Itself to Attract Defense Contractors

Posted September 20, 2007 5:52 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2007 11:11 a.m. EDT

— To attract more military contractors to the state, economic development groups have adopted a brand name for an 11-county region in southeastern North Carolina.

The state has the third-largest military population in the U.S., but studies have shown that it ranks 38th in terms of businesses serving the military. Officials said the newly christened "All-American Defense Corridor" could one day be as much of a magnet for development as Research Triangle Park.

"When they see that All-American Defense Corridor, it sends a light on. The light comes on with these procurement contractors. They say, 'Oh, what is this?' It means that we're close to Fort Bragg," said Gregory Cummings, a business recruiter for Robeson County.

The 11 counties that would be in the AADC are: Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland. The AADC would encompass areas around Camp Lejeune and the Wilmington port, as well as golf resorts in Pinehurst and North Carolina beaches.

"It's very important for us to advertise the strengths and promote them, because one of the most important is the quality of life in this area," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Dordal, who heads a regional task force to address Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) issues.

BRAC moves will make Fort Bragg the largest Army base in the U.S. by 2011. The base will have 65,000 employees when two major commands move their headquarters there, and as many as 40,000 residents are expected to funnel into the 11-county region.

The brand name also plays on the historical nickname of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg's largest tenant command. The 82nd has long been known as the All-American Division, which is the source of "AA" shoulder patches worn by its soldiers.

Defense firms wouldn't get tax breaks to locate in the AADC, but Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said they would be eligible for the same job-creation incentives as other growing businesses.

"Our bases are no different. They produce jobs," Perdue said, adding that the defense industry is a major aspect of the state's economy.