In August 2013 Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson asked the Island County Economic Development Council and Economic Development Association of Skagit County to compile a report on the military impact of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to both counties’ economies. After initial discussions, the Island County Economic Development Council volunteered to take on the project.
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island contributes significantly to Island County’s economy and to a lesser degree Skagit’s. At approximately 10,000 employees, the base is four times the size of the next nearest employer in Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties (Database USA, 2013). In military payroll alone, the base contributed $726 million dollars into Island County’s economy in 2011 and $15 million into Skagit’s. The numbers of veterans living near the base are three times higher than the national average. In 2011 veterans in Island County received $44 million in retirement and disability payments and $28 million in Skagit County. The base also contributes significantly to education with over 50% of the students in Oak Harbor School District being military dependents and 13% of Skagit Valley College students.