Keesler Air Force Base pumped more than $1.1 billion into the Gulf Coast’s economy over the span of one year. That's according to a report just released by the base for fiscal year 2013. The report is based on several factors, including pay for civilian and military employees, construction projects, retiree pay, volunteer services, and jobs indirectly created on the Gulf Coast. Many local businesses depend on Keesler for their customer base. Gulf Coast Barber Style is where Keesler's airmen go for a regulation haircut, and with a prime location right outside of gate seven, and not to mention an $8 rate, who could blame them?
Tim Jones, one of the barbers, says, “Keesler means a lot. We've been here for about 11 years now and it counts for at least 60% of our business.” Right up the street on Pass Road at the Black Dragon Tattoo Studio. Artist, Timothy Volentine, says most of his business comes from the base. Volentine says, “A lot of it is the new students that come in and out every six months, every six weeks, what have you, walking on and off base. Like I said, it's the back bone for our business.” Keesler currently employs over 11,000 people, but that number could soon change. The recent news that Keesler may lose some its C-130s has local businesses a little nervous. Jones also says, “We'll always figure something out, but it will probably hurt our business a little bit. Any time there's less people on base, there's less business for us.” With proposed budget cuts, Keesler could lose a total of 400 airmen.
Volentine closes, “This is a military town. Without the base, a lot of these small businesses right out here would not thrive.” Keesler has created more than 3,775 local and contract jobs.