7th Special Forces Group has given the area a needed economic boost

7th special forces 4th Batallion

Members of the 4th Battalion stand at ease during a ceremony.

MARK KULAW | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 05:52 PM.

EGLIN AFB — The arrival of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) more than a year ago has been a welcome boost to a slumping local economy.

The group, which officially opened its cantonment in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into Okaloosa County’s economy between 2010 and 2016, according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.

It’s enough to offset the departure of 50 F-15s from the Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing in 2009, which will result in a loss of $3.3 billion during the same time period, the report said.

Although the report calls it a nearly even trade, the area felt the economic boost when Army families began arriving from Fort Bragg, N.C., last year because the economy was so depressed, said Rod Lewis, director of the Haas Center.

Their arrival came on the heels of the housing bubble burst in 2008 and then the loss of the F-15s in 2009.

“It was a double whammy,” Lewis said.

After two years of significantly negative population growth in Okaloosa County, the 7th Special Forces Group brought about 6,000 new people, including 2,200 soldiers and their families, to the area.

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