BRAC, biotech and the business of government fuel new growth and policy in the Old Line State
Maryland state officials unveiled in December 2008 their list of five BRAC Zones and 16 BRAC grants to higher education institutions. Driven by legislation signed into law in May 2008, the measures are intended to help communities prepare for an influx of new residents and jobs as part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure plan of 2005. But one significant community was not on the list.
It was Harford County, just northeast of Baltimore and just Southwest of where the Susquehanna pours into Chesapeake Bay. In early February, the county attracted more than 2,500 job seekers to BRAC jobs fair, driven by the growth coming to nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG).
The Harford County Office of Economic Development has been working on BRAC-related growth for years, and Harford Community College received one of the 16 state educational grants. So why no state-designated zone, and all the incentives that come with it?
“We did not apply for that,” says Robert B. Thomas, Jr., public information officer for Harford County government. “The reason is quite simple- to be designated a zone you had to have a project or projects that were identified as ‘shovel ready.’ Although we have several BRAC-related projects that are pending, none are immediately shovel ready.”
But that doesn’t mean the shovels aren’t busy.
“We’ve already had over a dozen defense contractor-related businesses and science and technology businesses that have moved here or expanded their operations in the last year or two,” says Thomas, “And we’re looking at at least another 900 people coming to the Proving Ground this year.”
That’s not quite 10 percent of the total 8,100 positions moving to the base from seven other bases in five other states. Altogether, BRAC is expected to bring as many as 25,000 new jobs to Maryland.
Westport Section Write-up:
Among the projects benefiting from Maryland’s five new BRAC Zone designations is Turner Development Group’s Westport Waterfront project, located on the last large parcel of developable waterfront in the city of Baltimore. One month after receiving the zone designation, the project was approved for the largest TIF in Baltimore history, at $160 million. The 50-acre (20-hectare) development will include among its mixed-use components some 2 million sq. ft. (185,800 sq. m.) of office space.
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