Aberdeen Proving Ground stands to gain more than 300 new employees under an Army plan to build a new consolidated research laboratory on the base.
Aberdeen city and county officials welcome the $80 million Army Research Laboratory as a boon to Harford's economy.
"It will help everybody. Aberdeen Proving Ground brings in as much economic benefit to the state as the Port of Baltimore," said George J. Englesson, president of the Aberdeen Board of Commissioners. "We're happy that it's going in that direction rather than in the other direction."
Under the plan approved by Congress and President Bush, APG will grow as a direct result of a federal cost-cutting program that began last year to close and consolidate military bases nationwide.
The lab would unify testing and development operations scattered at six locations from Massachusetts to New Mexico.
The Army estimates the expanded lab will pour about $35 million into the state.
The Combat Materiel Research Laboratory will change its name Jan. 1to the Army Research Lab. It will study everything from new paint and rubber coatings to soldiers' vulnerability and ability to survive nuclear attack.
The lab should strengthen APG's role in supporting Harford's technology and research firms in the county, said George Harrison, a spokesman for County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.
APG is home to at least 14 Army laboratories and agencies. The 72,518-acrefacility is the county's largest employer.
APG paid $339.7 million in civilian wages and another $100.4 million in military wages in 1990.
The Army's preferred construction site for the new lab at APGborders wetlands adjacent to Chesapeake Bay. Three alternatives under consideration contain no wetlands, which help preserve aquatic lifeby filtering out pollutants.
"I'm sure they're not going to violate the rules and regulations regarding the environment," Englesson said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will seek public comments Jan. 7 at a meeting to help determine the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement it must complete.
The federally mandated EIS study isintended to assess the ecological and social effect of the lab. It is scheduled for completion in November 1992, followed by a 45-day public comment period, ending in January 1993.
The new facility wouldcombine APG's Human Engineering Lab and the Ballistic Research Lab with structural, computer and polymer development activities now located in Watertown, Mass., and Arlington and Fort Belvoir in Virginia.