“The opportunities for growth at Fort Meade are tremendous,” said Jean Friedberg, a member of the Fort Meade Regional Growth Management Committee. On Sept. 28, Friedberg spoke to a standing room-only crowd at Essex Bank’s Crofton branch who came to hear about growth opportunities generated by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
The employment base at Fort Meade is 56,000, said Friedberg. That number includes military personnel, and government civilian and contractor employees.
“For every defense employee, there are two private sector jobs that are created to support them,” he said. When you look at those numbers, you “get a sense of the tremendous economic impact Fort Meade has and will continue to have on the region,” Friedberg said.
As a comparison, the employment base at the Pentagon is approximately 22,000, Friedberg said. Fort Meade is the fifth largest employment center in Maryland, he said.
The best way for businesses to get in touch and stay plugged into what’s happening at Fort Meade is to join the Base Business Initiative (BBI), Friedberg said.
Small businesses often have an easier time getting into the system as a subcontractor to a prime contractor, Friedberg said. BBI is free. Members get access to initiatives such as email updates, monthly meetings and targeted networking with prime contractors. It allows small businesses to actually get face time with larger companies that can help them.
BBI used to stand for BRAC Business Initiative, but “BRAC is too small a concept now,” Friedberg said.
“BRAC is just the beginning. The Fort Meade region will be the epicenter of the cyber security and information assurance industries.” Friedberg said. “That’s enormous and will generate two to three times the growth that BRAC has,” he predicted.
The National Security Agency is planning an expansion at Fort Meade that will nearly double the footprint of its cyber command center. The 5.8 million square feet expansion will cost $4 to $5 billion dollars and take up to 20 years to complete, Friedberg said.
Fort Meade is a very popular location for government agencies that need secure locations, he said.
In addition to the growth occurring on base there is also the potential for private companies to expand outside of the gates. An area near the intersection of Reece Road and Annapolis Road has been designated as an Enhanced Use Lease area and may create up to 10,000 new jobs, Friedberg said. By 2015, growth at Fort Meade could create up to 26,800 new jobs.
Business and government are drawing from a common labor pool. “We need a well-educated, very energetic, and creative workforce. We need the economic infrastructure to support that workforce to generate quality of life to make our area tops when it comes to recruiting and retaining great people,” he said.
County councilman Jerry Walker represents District 7 which includes Crofton. “I think constituents are optimistic about the economic impact to the area,” he said. People are hopeful that the potential influx of people will give a boost to the real estate market, Walker said.
Feedback from people who have moved to the area from Northern Virginia indicates that “they love it here,” said Friedberg. The quality of life is better and commutes are easier. “The area has a lot to be proud of and a lot to build on,” he said.