The military is big business in Florida. Business leaders estimate the state's 20 military installations, along with the defense industry and veterans, account for 10 percent of Florida's economy.
So, it's no surprise that protecting Florida’s bases from realignment or closure is a top priority for elected officials and businesses alike.
That was the focus of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2016 Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit Wednesday at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg.
Tony Carvajal, executive vice president with the Florida Chamber Foundation, said the military economic impact is 775,000 jobs and almost $80 billion.
“Think of how a community is impacted by the bases, the veterans,” Carvajal said. “The Florida Chamber Foundation is committed over the long term to make sure we continue to expand and diversify Florida’s economy and this is the linchpin of our future.”
He said they're paying close attention to the next round of base realignments, known as BRAC, even though they have yet to be announced.
And the state is taking proactive steps like buying land around existing bases to buffer the military installations from development and encroachment.
Florida lawmakers also have extended in-state university tuition benefits to military stationed in Florida and their families. And fees for many state occupational licenses have been waived for military families.