As the Harbor of Hospitality, it makes sense that Elizabeth City hosts the largest Coast Guard base in the United States, featuring five commands: Base Elizabeth City, Aviation Technical Training Center, Air Station Elizabeth City, Station Elizabeth City, and the Aviation Logistics Center.
With more than 1,300 active duty and civilian personnel, the base is the city’s largest employer, with an estimated $117 million economic impact that reverberates throughout the area as a support industry magnet. Contractors serving the base employ some 700 personnel and contribute $30 million to the base’s overall economic impact.
Work and Retire in Elizabeth City
And when local active duty personnel retire, they tend to stick around. Elizabeth City has the highest per capita population of retired Coast Guard employees in the country.
Part of the attraction for Guard retirees is the ability to continue working after retirement within the contract industries that support the base.
Phil Wentworth, a retired chief warrant officer, says contract work is well suited for a retired person working to supplement their income. The electronics skills he developed in the service made him an easy contractor hire.
Camden resident John Tanis, a retired aviation maintenance mechanic, says, “For me and my wife, it was important to us not to uproot our daughter. We have good schools and lots of good friends in Camden.”
Elizabeth City’s small town atmosphere also helps keep retirees around.
“It’s an urban town with a rural feel,” says retired Captain Jim Thomas. “Elizabeth City is small enough that if you want to make an impact, if you want to play a role in the community, you can. You can participate. You’re not just a number like you would be in a big city.”
Thomas, who is employed by a local defense contractor, and his wife, a teacher, feel a personal connection with the city’s leadership and choose to live in the heart of town on Main Street.
“We could easily live in Camden or River Shore,” says Thomas, “but here, we can live in town.”
Coast Guard Week
Elizabeth City formally shows its appreciation for service men and women and their families during Coast Guard Week, held annually the first week of August. Organized through a partnership between the Elizabeth City Chamber of Commerce and the Guard, activities vary from year to year but always include free tickets to local sports attractions and merchant discounts for Guard personnel and retirees. Mainstays are the USO concert and Coast Guard Day at the base, a birthday party for the Guard celebrating its founding in 1939.
One popular Coast Guard Week activity is the free day of golf for active duty personnel at The Pines of Elizabeth City golf course. The course also offers public as well as private membership golf.
“You can’t find a better deal in the area,” says Thomas about the course. “It’s beautiful, challenging, and fairly easy to get a tee time. There is even a group of retirees called the Hoobie Goobies that tee off every day at 12:30. It’s a fun group to play with.”
Learn more about the coast guard in Elizabeth City, NC.