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Senator Chuck Edwards Prioritizes WNC in Military Economic Zone Study

Sen. Edwards amends bill to include Buncombe County as a Military Economic Zone

RALEIGH, N.C. – Senate Bill 231 requires the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, to conduct a study on the creation of military economic zones around communities that host North Carolina’s military installations.

As the bill recently worked its way through the Senate’s Commerce Committee of which he chairs, Senator Edwards successfully added an amendment that will recognize Buncombe County as a Military Economic Zone.

In his arguments for the change, he insisted that while it is important that the areas surrounding NC military zones are economically viable, it is also important that areas with high concentrations of retired military personnel are economically viable. Retired military personnel typically migrate towards areas with a Veteran’s Hospital. In most cases, the Veteran’s Hospitals are near a military installation. Since the Veteran’s Hospital in Oteen, NC is about 250 miles from the nearest military installation, Buncombe County is the exception.

Senator Edwards commented, “With this bill as originally presented, the interests of western North Carolina were about to be ignored one more time. As Chairman of this committee, I couldn't let that happen. The military veterans of our region deserve an economy that will offer them good job opportunities after they have so gallantly served our country. My changes to this bill will help ensure that those opportunities will be available.”

The study directed by S231 must consider the following issues:

  • Whether creating economic zones in and around communities that host and support NC military installations is feasible;
  • Methods of incorporating existing economic development programs into prospective military economic zones;
  • Opportunities to leverage the unique and valuable characteristics of the regions and communities that support the military installations;
  • Creation of synergy between the various Department of Commerce entities that specialize in economic development and the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission;
  • Criteria used for previous BRAC processes and the extent to which economic development initiatives can bolster the efficiency and effectiveness of the military installations in advance of future BRAC recommendations.
  • Best practices in other states for economic development for communities hosting military installations.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs shall report the findings of the study and any legislative recommendations to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government and the Fiscal Research Division on or before January 1, 2020.