Study predicts where BRAC jobs are heading

Harford expects competition from Baltimore County

September 08, 2007|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,special to the sun

A report released yesterday projects how many new jobs will land in specific counties affected by the base-realignment influx at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Of the 27,620 new jobs expected in the seven-county area by 2017, just more than 19,000 will be in Harford County, according the demographic study presented by government leaders during a news conference in Aberdeen.

Harford officials said the number is lower than their projection.

"We thought we would get something close to 22,500," said James C. Richardson, Harford County's economic development director.

The strong office market in Baltimore County would lead to more companies locating there instead, Richardson said.

"Baltimore County has more Class-A office space than we have, and more is coming," Richardson said. "We have a number of projects planned, but we will be playing catch-up."

The study, conducted by Sage Policy Group Inc., the Baltimore-based economic consulting firm, says that most of the new jobs will be in Maryland, but some will go to Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Anirban Basu, chief executive of Sage, predicted that 4,849 of the jobs coming into the region would go to Baltimore County, while Cecil County would get 1,460 jobs and Baltimore City would receive 941. In Pennsylvania, York County would get 586, and Lancaster County 266, while Delaware's New Castle County would land 281.

The forecast of the total number of jobs was about the same as recent previous estimates.

The base realignment, which is expected to bring about 5,100 jobs from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to the proving ground, will boost the region's population by more than 45,000 people, Basu said.

Vernon J. Thompson, Cecil County's economic development director, viewed the projections a bit skeptically, saying he expects more companies will pick his county because of cheaper land.

"Nobody has any idea how this is going to play out," Thompson said. "I'm not sure his numbers are accurate. They could be right on target, but it is still too soon to tell."

The study was conducted for the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor Consortium, a body of government officials from BRAC-affected jurisdictions. Other findings include:

The public school population in the seven-county area will grow by nearly 11,000 students, with the largest increase -- 4,624 -- in Harford County.

BRAC-related households will have average incomes of $109,000.

About 86 percent of the people coming to the region will live in owner-occupied houses, and the average home price is estimated at $400,000.

State gross tax receipts will be boosted by $113 million a year by 2017.

Richardson said Harford County expects to reap a $16.2 million annual surplus from the new workers buying more expensive housing. A house selling for $250,000 currently pays more in taxes than the cost of county services, he said.

In the short term, Richardson said, the county would be forced to borrow money to pay for road, water, sewerage, transportation improvements and new schools.

"At least we know that our ability to replay the loans will be based on solid and positive projections of our tax base," he said.

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