Military industry leaders highlighted the economic impact of Florida’s defense industry at a Senate committee meeting Tuesday.
The defense industry in 2018 contributed $94.9 billion to the state economy and created 914,787 jobs, according to data shared with lawmakers.
“I think it’s important to understand that that beat tourism in a record tourism year,” said Terrance McCaffrey, a U.S. Air Force retiree and Vice President of Military and Defense Programs at Enterprise Florida.
The economic impact of the defense industry surpassed the tourism industry by $3.6 billion and the health care industry by $5.4 billion in 2018.
“This defense industry remains stable, even in a COVID environment … Defense is going to be a resilient industry for our state (and) is very important to the economy of Florida,” McCaffrey told members of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security committee.
In all, Florida hosts 21 major military installations, which ranks second most in the country behind California. More than 65,000 active duty service members and nearly 25,000 reserve members reside in Florida.
There is good reason why Florida hosts the second most military installations, McCaffrey explained: Florida’s investment in training environments and extensive ranges.
“Florida brings a strategic advantage for military instillations,” McCaffrey said, adding that quality of life for service members and their families is among other major incentives.
The defense industry presentation comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to fortify Florida as the most military-friendly state in the nation. In early June, the Republican Governor signed three military benefit bills. The bills bolstered educational and career opportunities for Florida’s more than 1.5 million veterans and active-duty service members.
“Florida leads in all the friendly legislation that, again, this body, and the Florida Legislature passes,” McCaffrey said. “It is an advantage to come to Florida as a military member.”