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

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 05:52 PM.

People had been used to operating in the slump, Lewis said. “Then, boom.”

The county has felt the impact, especially in Crestview where most of the families settled.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Kay Rasmussen, interim president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. “The community has embraced the families moving into our neighborhoods.”

She described a ripple effect on the local economy as the new families started purchasing and leasing homes and taking advantage of retail.

Also, many of the soldiers’ spouses opened small businesses, primarily in the Crestview area, Rasmussen said.

The departure of the F15s, the arrival of the Special Forces Group and then the arrival of the first F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base were all called for in a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) report in 2005.

The F-35s — the first of which arrived at Eglin in July 2011 — have brought about 1,300 people to the community, said Col. Tony Douglas, vice commander of the Air Force’s 96th Test Wing, which oversees operations at the base.

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