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Harford, Cecil become home to most BRAC transfers from New Jersey, report says

Aberdeen Proving GroundFort Meade (military base)Anirban BasuFort Detrick (military base)

The following is an update on housing and other salient economic impacts from base realignment, or BRAC, affecting Harford County and the surrounding region. From the federal government's standpoint, the BRAC process affecting Aberdeen Proving Ground is expected to be completed this Thursday, Sept 15. Karen Holt, the update's author, is manager of the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor Consortium's BRAC Office, which is in Harford County.

As BRAC reaches its official deadline in the APG community, we pause to examine the impacts on our region.

First, let's look at residential impacts. Back in 2007, a demographics study was conducted to look at projections of where incoming personnel would choose to call home. Nearly 70 percent of the residential population was projected for Harford County, host to Aberdeen Proving Ground. Next, Baltimore County with it available office space and proximate amenities was projected to place second at 17 percent. Third was Cecil County with historically lower housing costs at a projected 5 percent; fourth was Baltimore City with its lure of urban culture for an anticipated incoming younger workforce at a projected 3.5 percent. York, Lancaster and Chester counties, in Pennsylvania, and New Castle County, Del., combined represented the projected balance of 4.5 percent.

It is important to note that these (above) numbers represented a mid-case scenario for population projections among the eight jurisdictions through 2017.

Fast forward to September 2011 – final BRAC implementation – and recall from a national perspective: an economic downturn of such magnitude never before seen in most of our lifetimes; gas prices hovering at $4-per-gallon; job creation reaching a screeching halt; an end to the federal internship program as we once knew it; angst over Congressional budget woes and defense spending; tightening of regulations regarding commercial lending; and ultimately hiring freezes.

Now recall locally: nearly 80 defense contractors have established a presence in the APG community; Maryland public education ranked top in the nation for the past three consecutive years; more than a quarter of a billion dollars was invested in local school construction; $1.3 billion dollars of construction occurred at APG – completed under budget, ahead of schedule and resulted in 2 million square feet of office, laboratories and high bay facilities. More than 800 moving vans relocated labs, transferred equipment and moved office materials.

These seamless and phased logistics occurred without interruption of mission or compromise to the war fighter in theater. One million square feet of commercial office and retail has manifested outside the (APG) gate. A comprehensive STEM initiative is embraced by government, industry and academia; a higher education task force, resulting from HB1156, is examining the governance, facilities, and programming issues associated with the creation of regional higher education center in northeastern Maryland; and 10 new defense organizations have formed within the APG community.

It has been a flurry of activity over these past several years, preparing to absorb and accommodate BRAC growth while maintaining a high quality of life we've come to enjoy and expect. More than 6,300 personnel have already transitioned to APG, and the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence and Surveillance) community has realized a transfer rate of 69 percent of its personnel, unprecedented in a BRAC round which typically experiences 25-30 percent. An inviting community; a collaborative region offering warm hospitality and a focus on the transformation of our growing defense community have made a difference. It has not gone unnoticed.

So where are C4ISR personnel residing now? According to a recent release of C4ISR ZIP code data of 3,024 personnel, Harford County claims home to 60.3 percent. Ranking second in residence of choice is Cecil County with 17.8 percent. Third is New Castle County with 6.4 percent; and Baltimore County is fourth at 5.0 percent. Baltimore City and Chester County, Pa., both ranked fifth percent with 2.5 percent each, and York and Lancaster counties combined for 1.6 percent. Other jurisdictions outside CSSC combined for a balance of 3.9 percent.

The resulting 85 percent of residential choice in the northeastern corridor (Harford, Cecil and New Castle Counties) may be attributed to those who transitioned from Fort Monmouth wanting to remain closer to family and friends "back home." Dual working families where one partner may still hold a job to the north may also be a factor. When the ZIP code data is mapped, it reinforces BRAC planning and implementation efforts regarding infrastructure such as water, sewer, and transportation to absorb and accommodate growth: the density is evident in our Growth Corridor. (Please see the accompanying map.)

September 15, 2011. BRAC implemented successfully? Check. Mission accomplished? Just beginning!

BRAC has served as a transformation for our region bringing innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities to the Corridor. Aberdeen Proving Ground serves as the region's key workforce center and the State of Maryland's third largest economic powerhouse whose research, development, test and evaluation activities will grow from $3 billion to more than $20 billion in revenue post-BRAC. BRAC has been the largest economic impact to this region since World War II. What follows with regard to discovery, development, tech transfer and commercialization will spotlight the Corridor's future as the mid-Atlantic's technology hub and a northeastern anchor tethering Fort Meade, Fort Detrick and Pax River with the APG community for cyber security and communications.

"Beyond BRAC: Shining the Light on Innovation and Opportunity in the CSSC Region" is a daylong conference set for Wednesday, Sept. 28, and will feature a Corridor economic development update, a transportation initiative panel, a higher education panel discussing tomorrow's workforce and an entrepreneurial panel focusing on opportunities in emerging sectors. Economist Anirban Basu will present "BRAC to the Future" as luncheon keynote, and Gary Martin, executive deputy to the commanding general of U.S. Army Research Development & Engineering Command (RDECOM), will speak on the government, industry and academia's partnership in support of the APG community. For more information, visit http://www.apg-cssc.com.

The Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor Consortium came together in 2006 to collaborate on outreach efforts and brand the region for this transformative process called BRAC. Five years later, the CSSC continues its commitment post-BRAC with the expansion of its "Sustaining Partners" to nearly 50 government entities and organizations. The Consortium will continue its collaboration to sustain the mission at Aberdeen Proving Ground and the safety and welfare of our war fighters, while supporting the economic vitality of the Corridor.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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