Defense contractor General Dynamics is expanding in defense-contractor-magnet Anne Arundel County, announcing yesterday that it will open a new location as soon as December and add 100 jobs.
The company has signed a lease for 62,000 square feet in a building under construction in Arundel Mills Corporate Park, a complex across from the Arundel Mills mall.
General Dynamics' Advanced Information Systems division will use the office space for systems engineering, software development and systems integration. The high-tech jobs are the kind being sought by the county. Eight of the nation's top 10 defense contractors have offices in the county, according to the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.
"It's just made my day, made my week, made my month," said William A. Badger Jr., the chief executive of the development corporation, a quasi-public agency.
General Dynamics, which has its headquarters in Falls Church, Va., currently employs 350 in Anne Arundel.
The county has built a name for itself in defense and homeland security contracting, particularly because of the presence of the National Security Agency and Fort Meade, where the agency is located.
The county is likely to benefit from expansions at NSA, where 1,500 people are being hired every year. The Army's Fort Meade is expected to gain about 5,400 jobs under a proposal to close and consolidate military bases.
General Dynamics wouldn't say what exactly it will be doing in its new offices or who it will be doing it for, but the vision statement for Advanced Information Systems division calls it "a leader in transformational command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission solutions."
NSA, two exits south from Arundel Mills on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is the federal government's electronic spying institution, and General Dynamics already has offices in the agency's back yard.
Anirban Basu, head of Baltimore economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group, said Anne Arundel - like Harford County to the north, with the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground - has hit critical mass in defense employment.
"Increasingly, defense contractors are finding that they require a presence in one or both of these counties to properly access opportunities in the defense sector," he said. "Today's economy is characterized by these types of clustering effects. ... Mostly it's because businesses are searching for concentrations of human capital, technical expertise and institutional strengths."
General Dynamics opened its first Anne Arundel location in 2001, and its local operations have been growing steadily since 9/11, said Bill Howard, a business development manager within the company's Advanced Information Systems division. It considers Anne Arundel a convenient spot and doesn't have trouble hiring when the need arises.
"We find that the work force ... is certainly qualified to meet the needs of our company and our customers," Howard said.