The nonprofit group that promotes Baltimore living isn't just hoping that relocating BRAC workers will move to the city. It's busing them in for a weekend tour.
Live Baltimore will pick up a busload of Fort Monmouth personnel and contractors in New Jersey and bring them to Baltimore Sept. 12 and 13, the first overnight stay the group has organized. Workers will go to the "Buying Into Baltimore" home-buying fair on the first day, which is open to anyone, and will get a BRAC-only tour the following day. Nearly 40 people have signed up.
"We thought it would be a great way to show more of the city," said Anna Custer, executive director of Live Baltimore. "Because so much of the city is the arts and the culture and the nightlife, just bringing them down for the day isn't sufficient."
BRAC - the nationwide military base realignment and closure effort - is expected to send thousands of out-of-state jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. Most of the Fort Meade jobs are coming from Northern Virginia, close enough that relocated personnel won't necessarily change homes. But most of the jobs slated for APG are at Fort Monmouth, an hour south of New York City and too far for a daily commute.
Several local counties have organized bus tours to show employees or contractors the lay of the land, said Tom Sadowski, president and chief executive of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Live Baltimore's event is the first overnighter he's heard of.
Baltimore County organized a day trip in May that showed off its waterfront, newly built amenities and the Towsontown Spring Festival to about 70 people from New Jersey. "We want them to be aware of Baltimore County as an option," said Bill Jones, the county's BRAC coordinator.
Anne Arundel gets regular busloads of workers from the relocating Defense Information Systems Agency in Northern Virginia - it had one last week - but those field trips are organized by the agency. Robert C. Leib, special assistant to the county executive for BRAC and education, said Anne Arundel doesn't need to market itself to Northern Virginia workers in the way that other counties are reaching out to Fort Monmouth.
"It just has to do with the overall familiarity of Northern Virginia people with Maryland," Leib said.
The time is ripe to market to the New Jersey BRAC contingent. APG already has about 1,000 BRAC jobs, moved without fanfare in the past year or so. Officials expect a total of 15,000 to 20,000, both government and contractor, when the relocations end around 2011.
"People are looking first to Harford County, but I think there's been a spillover as well into Cecil County and York County, Pa., and Baltimore County - maybe the city as well. Depends on what people are looking for," said George Mercer, chief of public affairs at APG.
Live Baltimore representatives went to New Jersey last week to talk to BRAC workers and promote the tour. The group is charging $50 a person, which includes the round-trip transportation, a room at the new Hotel Monaco and one meal.
Participants will see homes for sale under $250,000 on the east side of town during the Buying Into Baltimore event. The next day they'll look at other places, including apartments and some higher-priced homes. If they end up buying, they could be eligible for $6,000 - half from the city, half from the state - to put toward closing costs or a down payment.
Custer said 29 people who participated in the last Buying Into Baltimore event, in the spring, were potential BRAC relocatees. Live Baltimore chartered a bus that time, too, though just for the day.
Her group is getting a lot of questions from would-be movers.
"We're not only seeing the young professionals that everybody predicted we'd see, but we're seeing middle management," Custer said.