Welcoming Military Business

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 19, 2007
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There are few things that make people who do business on Oahu happier than military returning from a long deployment. On Sept. 12 all it took was 260 Schofield Barracks soldiers with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade returning home after being deployed in Iraq for more than a year.

The smiles will continue when more than 7,000 Schofield soldiers return home beginning this month. The coming and going of military troops from Schofield generates a lot of marketing opportunities for merchants. In point of fact, while those 7,000 troops are returning to Oahu, 4,000 Stryker brigade soldiers from Schofield will be leaving for Iraq in November.

The record shows that when the troops are in town, business goes up by 30 percent. That’s a significant increase in business for a small town like Wahiawa - and they know it. The question is, does the rest of the state know it? Probably not, because the troops at Schofield have been in Wahiawa for so many years, lots of local residents take their presence for granted.

The merchants in Waikiki have sources that let them know when a carrier group is docking at Pearl Harbor and how long they will be in town and if they will be allowed to leave the ships. The construction unions are well aware of how much money the federal government is going to spend on military housing and renovations by month and by year. It’s all part of their management engineering plan. They know exactly how many different kinds of skilled construction workers they will need every month of the year. Simply put, military business in Hawaii is big business.

The military as a whole helps our state in so many ways that there is not enough space here to list them all. It provides so much support for civil defense, emergencies and is even the biggest contributor in local fund-raising efforts.

The reason you don’t hear more business people talking about military presence is because it’s difficult to complain about the deployment of military members of a community when they are fighting and in harm’s way overseas. The deployed troops are making enormous sacrifices while their families are left behind to make the best of their situation. To these special family members who give the spiritual support for troops deployed in a combat zone, every news broadcast, every protest, every phone call in the middle of the night is a different kind of trauma to deal with.

Of course, the leaders at Schofield Barracks do a good job of looking after their own, but still a grateful community goes a long way in making the separation from loved ones more comfortable.

So while a lot of merchants are licking their chops waiting for the troops to return so they can sell another car, rent out their investment properties or sell more merchandise, maybe they should get together and welcome back the troops with open doors and arms rather than just open cash registers.

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