Military reshuffle could bring 60,000 people to area

November 08, 2005|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Harford County officials said yesterday they are expecting at least 58,000 people to flood the region surrounding Aberdeen Proving Ground over the next decade from a reshuffling of the nation's military bases that will be signed into law today.

State officials have said Central Maryland could see 60,000 settle in the region as a result of new military and private-sector positions, many of which Harford County says it could see in its immediate area. Estimates of job totals - particularly those in the private sector - have climbed throughout the process, and officials say that will likely continue.

"My sense is that the numbers of people coming in will change dramatically and keep increasing," said Aris Melissaratos, the state's director of economic development.

The two epicenters of expansion are Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground. Fort Meade expects 5,300 government jobs, while APG recently revised its projection to more than 6,100 new jobs.

In two to six years, those jobs - plus tens of thousands of contractors - are expected to spark an unprecedented influx that has federal, state and local leaders discussing billions of dollars in upgrades to infrastructure.

Maryland was one of the top gainers in the realignment process, possibly the winner. Melissaratos said differing estimates have the state at or near the top, along with Texas and Georgia.

Harford, with a population is 235,000, expects most of APG's new workers to settle there, with others landing in Baltimore and Cecil counties. The three jurisdictions have teamed up for a marketing effort to entice new businesses and developers.

"We made promises, now we have to perform," said Harford County Executive David R. Craig.

The county's director of economic development, J. Thomas Sadowski, told stakeholders yesterday that the expected number of jobs on-post and through contractors translates "conservatively" to 58,557 people. The number was calculated by multiplying the number of new jobs by the average household size.

"That's growth that we can target and shape," he said.

A handful of other projects not related to the base realignment plan could add another 5,000 jobs, he said.

Craig signed an executive order yesterday authorizing the formation of a planning and advisory commission to help the county accommodate the new jobs. Money for transportation projects will be expected to come from the federal government, but state and local officials are preparing to bear the burden of paying for new schools and police and fire protection.

The National Security Agency estimates it will hire three contractors for each of its 7,500 new counterterrorism jobs, most of which will be placed at Fort Meade. The number of new government and private jobs there could surpass 40,000.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said the county has been planning for this influx for years, and has placed transportation and education issues at the top of its agenda.

Congress had until yesterday to overturn the Pentagon's recommendations for base realignment, which includes the closure of 22 major bases and the restructuring of 33 others. President Bush approved the list in September, making the expiration date merely a formality.

At APG, the Pentagon's original plan was to include a net increase of 2,200 on-post jobs. But officials said those numbers were altered after a change in how the military accounted for the outgoing ordinance school's personnel, raising APG's tally to 6,100.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Gwyneth K. Shaw and Anica Butler contributed to this article.

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