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Georgia launches jobs-focused defense initiative
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Gov. Nathan Deal has announced a comprehensive assessment of economic development opportunities at Georgia’s military base establishments and their surrounding communities as part of his ongoing effort to grow Georgia’s economy through job creation.

The new Governor’s Defense Initiative will be operated through the Georgia Department of Economic Development and spearheaded by William L. Ball, former U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. T. Rogers Wade, former president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, will be executive director of the new initiative.

“Georgia’s dynamic military community is a fountainhead of economic activity and skilled talent for the state,” said Deal. “We are very fortunate that someone like Will, with deep roots in the defense industry, will be guiding this long-term strategy to prepare for any future Base Closure Realignment Commission examinations and ensure such a critical industry sector remains a healthy pillar of Georgia’s economy.”

The Governor’s Defense Initiative is a multi-year partnership that includes the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which will collaborate with the initiative’s leadership in forging connections and sharing information with Georgia’s communities and local base defense groups. Additional partners in the initiative will be announced in the coming weeks. Deal has met with Georgia’s military base commanders and will continue to seek their counsel in strategies that help the defense presence in the state continue to thrive and produce jobs. The initiative will remain in close communications with Georgia’s congressional delegation.

“I’ve worked with Rogers for a long time, and I know his tremendous diversity of experience and institutional knowledge of Georgia’s environment for the defense industry, combined with the expertise that Will brings to the table, will prime the state for the job creation this sector is capable of,” said commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development Chris Cummiskey.

Georgia’s military presence, which includes three Army bases, two Air Force bases, a Navy base and a Marine base, ranks among the top five in the nation. These installations together generate approximately $20 billion in economic impact, including salaries, contracts and revenue generated. In addition, eight of the top 10 defense contractors in the U.S. have operations in Georgia, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics (Gulfstream), Raytheon, BAE Systems, United Technologies (Pratt & Whitney), L-3 Communications and SAIC.

With this massive presence, the state ranks fifth in the U.S. for total Department of Defense military, civilian direct-hire, reserve and National Guard employment. Robins Air Force Base alone, home of Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, the 78th Air Base Wing, and more than 60 other units, is the largest industrial complex in Georgia, employing a workforce of about 25,000 civilians, contractors, and military members. Dobbins Air Reserve Base is also a significant employer. An educational system of 86 four-year colleges, universities and technical colleges, including the No. 2-ranked graduate aerospace engineering program in the country, as well as an average of 600 military personnel exiting the service each month, ensure Georgia of a continuous workforce pipeline in virtually all defense-related areas.