Throw out your perception of what a military town looks like. Today, the military spends millions on quality of life for its residents, and cities like Jacksonville are the perfect partners, giving military and civilians alike the kind of small town charm that leads to long term residents who love where they live.
Mayor Sammy Phillips says that the partnership between the town and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has never been stronger, and that they’ve recently found some new ways to help each other. “A unique connection between our military leaders and civilian leaders has been the Community-Military Cooperative Planning Group,” he said. “Formed initially to help coordinate a number of projects, this group of City, County, military and other officials allows a candid discussion of impacts to the military families and assets that make Camp Lejeune and the Air Station so valuable to the Marine Corps.”
More than just a way to share gripes, the group has been a way to get on the same page regarding future city developments. Mayor Phillips said, “This planning group has been recognized for working out potential conflicts and helping to shape collaborative efforts at such significant topics as drinking water resource protection and road planning.”
An Economic Base
While many of Camp Lejeune’s amenities are unavailable to civilians, the military presence provides a huge economic foundation that the entire city benefits from. Along with the 43,000 Marines stationed there, the base also employs 6,500 civilians as Department of Defense contractors. And many of those 43,000 Marines live off-post, spending much of their salary in the civilian economy. Estimates put the economic impact on the surrounding community at $4 million annually.
But while the military continues to shrink, Jacksonville still grows, proving that it has more to offer than just a place to stay for a few years until the military moves you. It’s a place to put down roots.
“The city has proudly invested in making this a home to our military while they are here,” says Mayor Phillips. “Parks, beautification projects, and the less glamorous work—that work is dedicated to having adequate water and sewer to allow commercial development that serves these families. This all contributes to our desire to make this a home to them while they are here.”
But for an increasing number of military, their relationship with Jacksonville continues even after the military. “Thousands have retired from the military to make this their home permanently and they have helped to shape our city. They’ve served on the city council and our advisory boards and are active in civic life.”
The military doesn’t just pour tax dollars into the county either. It also gives area businesses a customer base, allowing both big box stores and local boutiques to thrive. Accordingly, the area’s shopping and dining options are surprisingly diverse, as the area serves as a shopping, dining and entertainment hub for surrounding communities.
Intangibles Make For Quality of Life
While the city can take credit for making investments in its residents—many of which have paid off to a huge effect—part of the allure of Jacksonville is the same as it’s been for all the centuries that people have been deciding to settle here—the coastal life.
Just a short drive from the Atlantic coast, and surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, deep forest, plus nearby mountains, Jacksonville gives residents the opportunity to do just about anything outdoors they can imagine. And the temperate climate means they can do those things just about year-round.