Harford government and business leaders are keeping their fingers crossed that a U.S. Army report's recommendations that two Army agencies be shifted to Aberdeen Proving Ground gets approval.
If that were to become a reality, it could mean between 280 and 2,400 new jobs at the base, they said.
The recommendations in the report, which proposes changes in armyoperations nationwide, could invigorate the county's housing industry and be a boost for local contractors and businesses. Also, it mighthelp attract high-technology corporations to the county, Harford government and business leaders said.
"I can't think of one negative thing about it," said Diane K. Ford, president of the county Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Susquehanna Region Private Industry Council.
"Everybody stands to benefit -- from the corner grocers to the development community," Ford said.
The report, called Vision 2000, was prepared to determine how the Army Materiel Command, which oversees APG, can cut costs, said John Yaquaint, an APG spokesman. The study calls for closing some bases and consolidating their operations at other locations.
The report pinpoints APG as a site for consolidated operations, Yaquaint said. The recommendations go to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in April and to President Bush and Congress this summer. They would have to approve the recommendations.
"(The report) is filled with concepts," Yaquaint said. "A lot of this plan, some of this plan or none of it can be approved."
The report proposes relocating the Army Laboratory Command, which has 280 employees at Harry Diamond Laboratory in Adelphi, Prince George's County, to Aberdeen, Yaquaint said, confirming a recent States News Service article on the report.
The Army Laboratory Command oversees seven labs, including the Human Engineering Laboratory and the BallisticResearch Laboratory at Aberdeen.
APG also is under consideration as the site for a new Combat Materiels Research Laboratory, Yaquaint said. A site in Huntsville, Ala., also is being considered.
Aberdeen Proving Ground is home to at least 14 Army laboratories and agencies. The 72,518-acre facility is the county's largest employer, with 8,540 civilians and 5,770 military personnel on its payroll.
APG paid $339.7 million in civilian wages and another $100.4 million in military wages in 1990, according to the Army.
In addition, county-based businesses received $24 million in contracts at APG last year.
County leaders said they have heard that many of the new employees would be highly paid and highly educated.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann said the biggest boost from the new APG operations could come from corporations attracted to Harford as a result of the two agencies being shifted to the base. These companies, she said, would bring long-term growth to the county's tax base.
The new operations could also bolster the Higher Education Applied Technology Center, a project the state and county are working on to create a campus-like site near Aberdeen for science-oriented courses and research.
But Aberdeen Mayor George Englesson is cautious. He said the proposed changes could be years away, if they happen at all. Englesson said he is concerned that the changes might be too expensive for the Army to pursue in restrictive economic times.
Rehrmann said local government and business leaders are rallying the support of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the state's congressional delegation for the recommendations to shift the agencies to APG.
The county has sent letters to the Army and the Department of Defense to support the proposals and tomake sure that APG does not land on the department's list of closings, Rehrmann said.
Englesson said local leaders are highlighting APG's strong points, its location, area transportation services and theavailability of laboratory and testing facilities already at the base.
"We're helping APG sell itself," Englesson said.