By Mr. Dan Lafontaine (RDECOM)September 8, 2011
ABERDEEN, Md. -- Harford County proved to be a vital partner to Aberdeen Proving Ground in achieving a successful base realignment and closure, commonly known as BRAC, officials said Sept. 7.
Senior APG commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice praised the community -- local government officials, educators, businesses and first responders -- in helping the installation transform into the Army's high-tech hub for science and technology.
"We rarely find the kind of support in the state and surrounding communities that we've found in Maryland," Justice said. "Thank you for making this the easiest BRAC in the Army despite the fact that it's the biggest."
About 120 people attended the county's final BRAC town hall meeting at Aberdeen High School. The deadline for BRAC completion is Sept. 15.
APG DRIVES LOCAL ECONOMY
Harford County Executive David Craig said BRAC has positioned the county in a stronger economic position than the nation as a whole.
The federal government has spent $1.3 billion on BRAC construction within APG, Craig said. Since BRAC's announcement in 2005, the county has allocated $300 million on capital projects, including four new schools and an expansion to the Abingdon waste-water treatment plant.
Jim Richardson, director of the county's Office of Economic Development, said economic statistics from BRAC have been positive.
"APG is an economic powerhouse. It is the third largest economic engine in Maryland," Richardson said.
He also noted that said 61 percent of workers who relocated moved to Harford County, and 76 new defense contractors have opened offices in the county.
APG is unique among military installations because the workforce is primarily civilian, Justice said. The change to a civilian workforce has been a boost to the community.
"Our young Soldiers are moving out and a more permanent workforce is coming into your community. They're going to raise their children here," Justice said. "They are going to go to those schools that are being built.
"They're going to live in those neighborhoods in the surrounding counties, and they're going to become Marylanders."
BRAC PLANNING PAYS DIVIDENDS
Tom Sadowski, chairman of BRAC Planning Advisory Commission and former director of the county's Office of Economic Development, urged the civilian and military leaders in the audience to sustain the momentum. He said the county has created a national model for BRAC success.
"Communities throughout the country took this plan and used it as a model and template," Sadowski said. "We have to continue the conversation.
"We have to stay on top of all these issues. If the political will isn't sustained, there's going to be an evaporation of support and funding, and we can't have that happen."
TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES AHEAD
Along with BRAC's positive economic effects, the region's largest challenge is traffic surrounding APG, Craig said.
"We must continue to advocate that all levels of government work on our transportation issues. It's going to be a huge issue," Craig said. "When I leave post now, you have a long line of traffic, and it's only going to get worse. We need to continue to work on that."
The state is improving the interchange of U.S. 40 and MD 715. The estimated completion date is the summer of 2013 at a cost of $36 million, according to the State Highway Administration web site.