Contractors sought for housing work

Developers need hundreds to help in $3 billion overhaul

`It's a huge opportunity'

Potential bidders invited to Thurday `procurement fair'

January 11, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

As recession cuts into many businesses' profits and layoffs become more prevalent than hires, one business is on the hunt for a few local workers.

Make that a few hundred.

MC Partners LLC, an alliance between two large out-of-town companies that is assigned with overhauling military housing at Fort Meade, will spend $400 million over the next 10 years on construction at the Anne Arundel County base.

The Army has put the total cost of the project at $3 billion over 50 years. To move ahead with it, MC Partners needs construction experts, landscapers, property managers and office suppliers, to list a few.

"We're looking for hundreds of contractors, anything you can imagine. It's a huge opportunity," said Jennifer Gaskill, MC Partners' community relations manager.

MC Partners will present its plans at a "procurement fair" Thursday at Arundel Mills Retail Skills Center. Companies interested in bidding on the work will be able to submit resumes listing qualifications or leave business cards, and MC Partners will contact them, Gaskill said.

Fort Meade is one of four pilot sites nationwide participating in the Residential Communities Initiative, a program approved by Congress to improve military housing.

When Army officials introduced plans for the Odenton military base in May 2000, nearly 300 developers, from as far away as Utah, crowded into Baltimore's Renaissance Harborplace Hotel to hear the presentation.

Few of the attendees were large enough to undertake the project. Eventually, two huge companies, Rhode Island-based Picerne Real Estate Group and IT Group, based in Pittsburgh, joined forces to form MC Partners and won the bid.

Some of those that lost out two years ago might attend MC Partners' fair, but Gaskill expects most of the attendees to be small local businesses.

To that end, she is working with Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. to publicize MC Partners' opportunities.

AAEDC Executive Director Bill Badger said yesterday that the county's concentration of defense and intelligence businesses has shielded it from the economic difficulties other regions have experienced.

The county's unemployment rate was 3.7 in November, the most recent month for which figures available, compared with 5.7 percent nationwide that month. Last month, the nationwide rate increased to 5.8 percent.

Still, Badger said, many of the county's 12,000 businesses will welcome the opportunity for military contract work, particularly the smaller ones.

"The big construction companies, I'm sure, will be in there pitching. But I would like to see some of our smaller contractors get some opportunities," Badger said.

"If they're able to win some business, this could help them get over the hump," he said.

Neither Badger nor Gaskill could say how many jobs the project would generate. But the number is expected to be in the hundreds.

The construction portion of the job will entail demolishing more than 2,600 units and replacing them with more than 2,800 houses.

The houses will be organized into five neighborhoods, each clustered around a community center, and will include carpeting and master bedrooms.

Construction is expected to take 10 years and cost about $400 million.

After the houses are constructedbuilt, MC Partners will manage them and will providing landscaping services, plumbing and maintenance for all of its houses over the next 50 years.

The property-management aspect of the housing overhaul led the Army to put the project's cost at $3 billion.

Officials took the average monthly base housing allowance, $1,143, stretched it over 50 years and multiplied the result by the number of units included in the overhaul, 3,170.

They adjusted that number for projected inflation over 50 years.

MC Partners will recoup its investment through rental income from the houses.

In addition, the Army will pay the company a fee of about 4 percent of the project's rental income to manage the properties over the project's 50-year lease.

The procurement fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at Arundel Mills Retail Skills Center (near the food court).

For a mall directory and directions, see www.millscorp.com/arundel/index2.html.

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