By By Julia LeDoux, Special CorrespondentJune 16, 2008
Base Realignment and Closure 2005 will bring an influx of new personnel to Fort Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corps Base and the opportunity for businesses outside both installation gates to grow.
That's the message of the Quantico/Belvoir Regional Business Alliance.
With a toast Friday at the Fort Belvoir Officers' Club, the alliance officially began its effort to help make the coming BRAC expansions at the area's two military installations successful for all.
In his keynote address, Congressman Robert J. Wittman, D-VA 11, lauded the alliance's efforts to build a strong relationship between area businesses and the community.
"Outreach is critical," he said.
The not-for-profit business organization will work to position the region as a welcoming and supportive community to the military and its business partners, said Sam Hill, provost at Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus, who serves as the alliance's chairman.
"The alliance is an opportunity and a vehicle for all of us to work together for the benefit of our region," Hill said. "(It) recognizes that both the Quantico and Fort Belvoir installations are assets to this region.
"Its mission is to support the two military installations and to position the region to benefit from the economic opportunities they provide," he said.
The alliance is the outgrowth of a nine-month community dialogue project initiated by NOVA's Woodbridge campus, which, initially, engaged both community and business leaders in a series of focus groups that explored the impact of BRAC expansions at Belvoir and Quantico.
It has since grown into a regional alliance that is also open to participants from Stafford and Fairfax counties.
It boasts 16 founding members, including Prince William County; the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce; Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus; Didlake, Inc.; The Flory Small Business Center, Inc.; The Potomac News/Manassas Journal Messenger; MDA Technologies, Inc.; The Mason Enterprise Center at George Mason University; Patton Harris, Rust and Associates; ProChain Solutions, Inc.; Potomac Hospital; Minnieland Private Day School; The Prince William County/Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce; HP Floors and More; Employment Enterprises, Inc.; and Belvoir Federal Credit Union.
Each of the founding members made a $1,500 commitment to the alliance.
Col. Mark Moffatt, deputy garrison commander for BRAC Transformation at Fort Belvoir and Quantico base commander Col. Charles Dallachie said they appreciated the alliance's efforts to ensure that BRAC brings economic growth to the area.
Fort Belvoir will gain a new hospital, 7 million square feet of new office space and around 19,300 additional personnel by Sept. 15, 2011, as a result of BRAC.
Quantico Marine Corps base will gain an additional 2,600 personnel and 712,000 square feet of office space.
"Close cooperation and communication with the surrounding community is absolutely critical to the success of BRAC," said Don Carr, director of public affairs at Fort Belvoir. "This alliance is focused on Prince William, Fairfax and the other counties that have a direct, vested interest in BRAC at Quantico and Belvoir.
"I expect the alliance will bring a great influence to the development of both installations and the region," he said.
"BRAC certainly presents challenges," said Dallachie. "But, there are certainly exciting things that go along with this project."
His comments echoed those of alliance advisory panel members Sara Jennings, owner of HP Floors and More; and Tim Jackson, president of MDA Technologies.
"One of the things that's very important for our group to do is position ourselves as supporters of both these military installations," Jennings said.
"Our position is, while everyone knows there are challenges associated with growth, that this BRAC initiative and the other initiatives that will come down the pike with regards to keeping the installations here is a good thing," she said.
Jackson said the alliance was one way to alleviate what he called "the overarching myth that BRAC is always a negative thing."
Miles Friedman, a principal in Economic Development Strategies and Technologies in Woodbridge who facilitated the focus group discussions, also agreed with Jennings' assessment.
"There are more opportunities than downfalls when it comes to BRAC," he said.
The alliance recognizes that some may see the coming BRAC expansions at Belvoir and Quantico as having negative impacts on the area's already overburdened transportation and public school systems, Friedman added.
"Growth can be a huge boon to the community," he continued. "It can also challenge it."
Communities need a work force with a variety of skill sets and employers who offer a wide range of jobs to succeed, Friedman continued.
As a result of BRAC expansion, a whole host of new jobs, everything from high-paying engineers and other skilled jobs on down, will be created.
"BRAC will provide opportunities for a wide spectrum of businesses, including community services like private schools," said Andrea Autry, marketing director for Minnieland.
The alliance has extended the Mason Enterprise Center's business services to NOVA's Woodbridge campus and is exploring customer service training opportunities for the region's employees.
The alliance has also received a grant from the commonwealth to fund work force development.
"We are rapidly becoming the model that the state would like to see replicated in other parts of Virginia," Friedman said.
Friedman stressed the alliance is working to ensure that businesses and the work force can "capture the optimum amount of opportunity that's coming out of this increase in jobs."
Betty Dean, director of communication and foundation development for DIDLAKE, Inc., a federal contractor and non-profit organization in Manassas that provides jobs and other services for those with disabilities.
"We see this as a unique opportunity for people with disabilities," she said. "There are a lot of families coming here. At least one out of every 10 families has or is connected to someone with a disability."
Dean said that DIDLAKE has already seen two major contracting opportunities come its way as a result of its work with the alliance.
"That has already happened for us as part of this alliance," she said.
More information about the alliance is available on its Web site http://www.qbrbusinessalliance.com.