A prominent leader of the business community in Florida warned this week that expanded energy exploration off the coast of the Sunshine State could impact military bases across the state.
The Florida Chamber Foundation met in Jacksonville this week for the 2019 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit and Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, insisted the defense industry is a cornerstone of the state’s economy.
“We want to see Florida grow from the 17th largest economy in the world to 10th largest economy, and the defense industry will help diversify and help fuel this growth,” said Wilson.
The Florida Chamber stressed the Sunshine State’s importance to national defense.
“Florida is one of the most strategically important states for the U.S. Armed Forces with 20 major military installations, three combat command centers and thousands of defense contractors supporting more than 800,000 Florida jobs,” the Florida Chamber noted.
But Wilson and retired Army Major Gen. Michael Jones noted that the moratorium on energy exploration off Florida’s coast ends in 2022–and that could hurt defense efforts in Florida.
“Think about the importance of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico,” Wilson said. “If you’ve not been following what Congress is not doing, the moratorium on oil drilling ends in 2022. If Congress doesn’t deal with the moratorium expiring in 2022, we could have drilling nine miles off our coast.”
Jones also weighed in on Tyndall Air Force Base which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October. While the base is being rebuilt and is scheduled to be the home base for F-35s, Jones said Florida has to remain vigilant in making sure it happens.
“If we don’t think there are others out there who are competing, who would like to see those F-35 squadrons go elsewhere, I think we’re being naive,” Jones said.