Tuesday, February 20, 2007

BRAC jobs are on the way, but we're all going to have to get a lot smarter

A story in today's Baltimore Examiner newspaper says that a good portion of the jobs that are coming to Aberdeen Proving Ground are going to require workers who have more than a bachelor's degree.

"Nearly 2,200 positions coming to Aberdeen from Fort Monmouth, N.J., require either a doctoral degree or several years of higher education beyond a bachelor’s."

Unfortunately the colleges within fewer than 30 miles of APG, don't offer much in the way of much higher education. The story says Harford and Cecil community colleges are working with Towson State and the University of Maryland to come up with ways that students up here won't have to travel too far to get their degrees.

"Harford Community College has started 22 “two plus two” transfer programs that allow students to combine two years at Harford with two years at Towson, said Vice President for Instruction Luba Chliwniak, and negotiations are in the works for another 10 to 12.

"Towson University also is offering undergraduate courses on-campus at Harford and at the Higher Education and Technology Center in Aberdeen, and the college is considering offering more Towson undergraduate programs when 100 acres of additional campus land is developed, Chliwniak said."

Otherwise, these new students are going to have to compete with people like my dear cousin who heads from her Forest Hill home to Towson hours before her first class to make sure she'll be able to score a parking space in enough time to make it to her classes start.

It seems the Harford Community College president James F. LaCalle has been giving this all some thought recently. He mentions BRAC several times in his Major Initiatives for 2007 report found on the school's website.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Some clues for BRAC news

The whole BRAC issue of who's coming to APG from Fort Monmouth, NJ, when they'll arrive and where they'll live is murky at best. But I found a source of information tidbits on a website published for those who work at Fort Monmouth. It's called The Monmouth Message and it looks like it gets posted each Friday. A series of links to articles shows up on the website each week. Not all of them are relevant to the BRAC move. But this one published on Feb. 9, provided some insights. The article titled "Community gets closure update" said that a recent survey of Fort Monmouth workers indicated that 485 of their spouses would be looking for work when they make the move to APG or Fort Belvoir, Va. The article said:

"It’s estimated that about 2.600 jobs will open by the time this fort closes and, hopefully, some spouses will fill some of those positions."

The article also said:

"Also in the works is a plan for job swapping for employees whose jobs are not transferring but who would like to transfer to APG."

Construction of new facilities at APG for the incoming workers was also discussed in the article. It said the Army Corps of Engineers had hired the firm of
Ewing Cole as the architect and engineering firm for the project. And it said that a date of Sept. 30 had been set for the first construction project award to be made.

The article discussed an advance team made up of interns hired in Maryland to start working with volunteers from Fort Monmouth out of trailers and leased space at APG until the new facilities were ready. Although the article added that no money had been made available for the concept.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Harford County to get 12,712 BRAC-related jobs

A Washington Post story on Friday gave a good breakdown of the BRAC jobs that are expected to come to the region in the next few years:

Total: 45,232

Anne Arundel: 10,049

Baltimore: 3,145

Baltimore County: 3,898

Cecil: 2,602

Harford: 12,712

Howard: 2,259

Montgomery: 4,236

Prince George's: 3,463

Rest of Maryland: 2,868

SOURCE: Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development

(Click this link to read the study on the department's webpage.)

The study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, estimates the job growth will create a demand for 25,000 new homes in Maryland, and warns of strains on roads and schools.

"[Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown ] said state officials hope to develop an "action-oriented strategic plan" to deal with BRAC by mid-fall. Meanwhile, county executives representing affected areas are working to create a priority list to try to get key funding for projects. The first phase of the transfer of workers is set to begin by 2009."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Some useful BRAC stats from a recent Sun story

Some useful BRAC stats from a recent Baltimore Sun story on road projects needed to relieve the expect BRAC traffic onslaught:

"APG, which occupies more than 73,000 acres along the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Harford County, will gain 8,200 jobs on the post and 10,000 contractor jobs off the installation, James C. Richardson, Harford's economic development director said. It is expected to become a communications hub, and its annual budget for research and development will go from $3.5 billion to more than $10 billion, he said About 60 percent of the new positions are expected to be filled by local residents because of retirements and the reluctance of many current employees at Fort Monmouth, N.J., to move with their jobs to Maryland, officials said. About 65 percent of the proving ground workers live in Harford now and nearly 13 percent in Cecil County. "

The story also says:

"To handle the accompanying rise in traffic, the county will need major improvements along the U.S. 40 and Interstate 95 corridors; an extension of Route 715 from the post to I-95; and upgrades of Routes 7 and 755 in Edgewood, and Routes 159 and 22 in Aberdeen."

It quotes Del. Barry Glassman, chairman of Harford's legislative delegation, as saying:

"Because of the tight budget, we may have to do interim measures, such as added lanes, before we can do the larger projects."

Sounds to me like traffic is going to be tied up for years to come.

Maryland state and Harford County's BRAC planning documents now available online

Both the state's and Harford County's BRAC plans are now available online.

Here's a link to the state's BRAC plan. It's a doozy to download. The 334-page document took about 10 minutes to load with my broadband connection.

Here's a link to Harford County's
BPAC plan. That stands for BRAC Planning Advisory Commission Action Plan. It's a mere 28 pages.

I've been reading the two of them to try to determine if the county's plan seems to address the land use, traffic, school and water supply issues that are in the state's version. I'm still plugging along.

So far, what makes me the most nervous is the number of rather essential items in the county's plan that appear to be scheduled to be finished by 2015. That's four years after all the BRAC jobs planned for Aberdeen Proving Ground are scheduled to be in place.

Here are just a few of those items that aren't scheduled to be completed until 2015:

Land Use

  • Regional growth Projections - Quality of life /evaluation of community / human service needs
  • Study fiscal impact of new development and annexation on municipal governments.
  • Update vacant land inventories

  • Gain State recognition and funding of all identified projects and linkages
  • Siting of multi-modal site in coordination with APG and City of Aberdeen to ease congestion at MD 715 gate due to BRAC, Perryman access and GATE project to include parking and bus service (Ok, I don't exactly know what "multi-modal site coordination" means, but that whole easing congestion thing sounds like it's coming a little late.)
  • Identify funding sources available for these opportunities, such as Tax Increment financing (TIF) or private development (Did they say TAXES?)

  • Seek additional state funding for school construction and modernization

Public Safety
  • Establish adequate staffing plan to service the anticipated increase in population.

The report prefaces all this with the statement:
"The broad scope of the plan dictates that the status of actions addressed in it will be constantly changing, and for at least the near term the plan should be reviewed for update quarterly."

That leaves us four quarters before the first BRACers are expected to start arriving in 2008. Hope they pick up the planning pace.