Military Personnel Saving our Country -- and the Economy

In some much-needed good news for the local economy, an influx of military personnel into the Florida Panhandle has created something of a real estate boom. Just a year after taking a hit in tourism as a result of the BP oil spill, these new arrivals are coming at a good time for local businesses.

“Before the oil spill, [home sales] were up about 30 percent. April 20, it just came to a halt,” said Jean Floyd, the president of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors.

Now, Floyd has good news to report again. Eglin Air Force Base, one of the nation’s largest military installations, is undergoing a massive increase of personnel. Starting last year, the Army 7th Special Forces Group and the Air Force Joint Strike Fighter Training Center began adding thousands of members. Even more new residents will be arriving to fill support jobs for the military units.

To local real estate agents and local businesses -- that means more consumers.

“[The real estate market] started picking up again, and now, since the first of the year, we are up 30%,” Floyd said. “I think it’s going to keep getting better because the troops that are coming in.”

Floyd is referring to residential sales, which are up more than 30 percent, but condo sales are also up -- more than 25 percent. And townhome sales are up more than 50 percent.

One of the new arrivals is Capt. Gary Roos and his wife Danielle.

“They’re closing down a few bases and transferring over a lot of units, so I know Eglin Air Force Base is getting a pretty big influx of Army folks and some Air Force,” said Gary Roos. “I think it’s really good for the local economy. I know we bring a lot of tourism, a lot of families come from out of town and we do a lot of shopping and things in this area.”

The couple admits in a few years, it will be time for them to pick up and move to another base. But they purchased their home, with the future in mind.

“I know a lot of people who will buy a home, move to the next base and buy a second home. They keep the first here and rent it out, especially how it’s a good market to buy,” Gary Roos said.

His wife agrees.

“This is some place that we could definitely spend the rest of our lives,” she said as she looked at her 2-year-old son.

As for Floyd, being a military wife, long-time resident and Realtor, she says the growth spurt has been a breath of fresh air.

“We love our military families,” she said. “I’m enjoying it because I’m seeing the effects, all the positive effects it’s having on our area.”