MAYPORT, Fla. - After much speculation and the threat of budget cuts derailing a deal, Naval Station Mayport has received confirmation that more ships are definitely coming.
Congressman Ander Crenshaw confirmed the first of three ships in the Amphibious Ready Group is moving its homeport from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport.
USS New York will make the move by Dec. 1.
Just that ship alone will bring 31 officers and more than 320 sailors and their families to the area.
"That means it's a great deal for me because we are right outside the military base, so it's a definitely a plus and it's well-needed," said Cedric Malone, who owns a barber shop.
Naval Station Mayport tells says "we are prepared and ready for the ARG's arrival. We expect USS New York to arrive here at Naval Station Mayport in the last quarter of calendar year 2013, and it will bring more than 2,000 Sailors and their families to Mayport area."
Business owners along Mayport Road are looking forward to the new faces they'll see around town.
"Two thousand more people would generate a lot of business across the board," Malone said.
"If the ship is coming, 2,000 people, this is helpful for everybody, business, the area in Mayport, and I am so happy," restaurant owner Vladmir Yzeiri said.
USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry will follow USS New York's lead. The two remaining ships in the Amphibious Ready Group are expected to reach reach Mayport by 2015.
Business owners say this could mean a huge boost for the local economy.
"That looks great for me, for not only me as a business, but the community as a whole," Malone said.
The governor's office says northeast Florida is 17 percent economically dependent upon the military and defense industry. When ships leave or when they are decommissioned, businesses feel it in their bottom line.
"We have lunch almost 40, 50 percent sometimes," Yzeiri said. "The ship is here, we have good business sometimes. The ship is not here and the base is empty and we lose business."
The arrival is not only good for the economy, but also strategic interests.
In a statement from Crenshaw, he says, "As Congress deals with very difficult budget decisions, this is promising news for national security and the First Coast. This first phase of the ARG move to Mayport underscores the Navy's commitment to a strategic dispersal of assets -- a strategy I have long advocated on Capitol Hill."
The three ships that are scheduled to relocate eventually would add about $75 million to the economy each year in maintenance and repairs.
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