Lt. Gov. Brown: BRAC and Beyond – Maryland’s New Economy

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Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles in Corridor Inc.'s "Economic Impact" issue, which was published this month. Click here to sign up to receive a complimentary copy of the entire print issue.

By Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) represents an important opportunity, as well as a great responsibility, for the State of Maryland. BRAC in Maryland means more jobs, a stronger economy, enhanced national security, and better services for our troops and their families.

It has been a tremendous honor to guide Maryland during this transition as chair of the Governor’s BRAC Subcabinet. By forming strong partnerships between the local, state and federal government and the private sector, we have worked successfully to fulfill the mission of supporting the national defense while simultaneously protecting, preserving and enhancing the quality of life we enjoy in Maryland.

The BRAC decision of 2005 gave us an opportunity to create the single largest economic development growth spurt the state has seen since World War II. Governor Martin O’Malley and I realized the great potential of BRAC for our state – to build an innovation industry and workforce unrivaled in the nation – and we set out to do everything possible to maximize this opportunity.

During our first legislative session, we created the BRAC Subcabinet to organize Maryland’s efforts horizontally across ten state agencies and coordinate vertically with congressional, federal, state and local government and private sector entities.

We estimate that by 2015 Maryland will gain approximately 60,000 jobs throughout Central Maryland from the BRAC moves, with over 21,000 being direct Department of Defense civilian military jobs. What makes these jobs so valuable is that they are well-paying, career civilian jobs that tend to be stationary. We plan to retain these jobs in our communities in Maryland for years, and perhaps generations, to come.

Like other states, Maryland has not been immune to the economic recession. The O’Malley-Brown Administration has demonstrated our commitment to making BRAC a success by investing $3.5 billion towards BRAC-related projects to date. These projects include capital funding for higher education and public school construction, water and sewer improvements, and transportation initiatives.

We also created the first ever BRAC Zone program to provide local government entities with financial support for their own infrastructure efforts in BRAC-impacted communities. So far, we have seven BRAC Zones throughout the Central Maryland region that are poised to grow in the coming years.

While BRAC transportation needs are challenging and will continue over the next few years, we have organized these needs through an innovative high-low approach that has enabled us to pursue short-term, lower-cost projects immediately while simultaneously advancing longer-term, higher-cost projects that require additional time to implement.

This high-low approach has garnered the recognition of “Best Practice” by the National Governor’s Association. So far, we have dedicated more than $145 million for near-term intersection improvements and transit initiatives near Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Joint Base Andrews and the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda. And working in partnership with the military installations, we are aggressively pursuing $300 million in federal funding that was secured by Maryland’s Congressional Delegation for BRAC-related transportation projects.

We have worked with local partners around Ft. Meade and APG to develop alternative ways to ease the immediate congestion on our roads through shuttle services to transit facilities, car and van pools, subscription buses, telecommuting and incentivizing the use of mass transit, as we accomplished by extending the Guaranteed Ride Home program throughout the Baltimore region to include both the Ft. Meade and APG regions. Additionally, the state has allocated key resources to support its Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) Growth and Investment Plan, which will expand MARC’s capacity and improve service in the region.

Just as important as investments in infrastructure is developing the human capital -- the workforce to maintain and sustain the critical work being done at our military installations. Understanding how difficult the BRAC process and all of its associated movements can be for the families and individuals affected, we’ve taken steps to ensure that the families and workforce coming to our state have access to the best resources and services.

Through our Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, we launched One-Stop offices in New Jersey and Virginia to provide BRAC employees and their families with direct access to information about our state. We passed legislation to make it easier for family members to transfer their professional licenses to Maryland, provided in-state college tuition for BRAC movers and signed the Interstate Military Child Education Compact to ease the transition for children moving across state lines. We also created a BRAC Match down payment/closing cost assistance program for potential homeowners and offered $100 million through the Maryland Mortgage Program in BRAC-impacted counties.

While we want to encourage BRAC workers to move to Maryland, we realized that as much as 50 percent of the jobs are coming unfilled. This has provided Maryland the opportunity to train workers to fill the immediate openings and create a workforce pipeline to keep these coveted jobs in Maryland. Toward that end, we created the BRAC Higher Education grant that has forward-funded many programs, such as cybersecurity and procurement training focused to fulfill BRAC employment needs. With this $3.6 million investment in programs at 19 institutions of higher education, we have been able to immediately train and educate 2,100 people in the first two years, with more to come as these programs continue.

We also heard from the military and private sectors alike that potential employees and students need education and assistance in the security clearance process. In partnership with the Ft. Meade Alliance, we were able to put together a program to educate students on how life choices, such as what one posts on a social network or one’s credit history, can impact future employability by making it more difficult to pass a security check. This successful program has been disseminated throughout all the middle schools in the state, and a version of the program is being designed for college students. We continue to look at ways to develop this innovation workforce and are currently working to create comprehensive plans to address higher education needs in geographic areas that presently experience limited choices.

Ensuring high-performing public schools, developing the road and transit systems to and from our military installations, creating new housing programs, and supporting our higher education institutions to build an innovation-based workforce are just some of the areas that we have been working on.

The end of the official BRAC move is this September, but it is just the beginning. BRAC solidifies the foundation for an innovation economy right here in our own backyard. With the cybersecurity industry, bioscience industry and others set to receive a boost from the BRAC moves, we intend to do all that we can to support their growth and move Maryland’s economy forward.

I look forward to working with our partners at every level to ensure success as we continue this important transition.

Anthony Brown is Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor.
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