By Guy Leonard, County Times
CALIFORNIA, Md. (Dec. 20, 2007)—Communities closer to Baltimore are going to experience heavy growth with the influx of military related jobs to installations like Fort Meade, but that doesnt mean that the state will turn its attention from Southern Maryland, which continues to grow from events of the 1995 federal Base Realignment and Closure commission, according to the states leader for economic development. Southern Maryland will not be ignored, said David Edgerley, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development to a symposium at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. Groups such as this need to make sure we pay attention to them.
Edgerley said that the state would do all it could to ensure that Southern Maryland would continue to receive support from the state for improvements such as infrastructure to continue to cope with the increase of the program work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Marys and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Charles County.
But it local communities would have to help ensure that they matched their response to the growth.
Its the work of all of us to bring in the right balance [of transportation, housing, and education], Edgerley said.
Gov. Martin OMalleys (D) plan to support communities dealing with BRAC growth includes funding for more higher education opportunities and incentives to local governments to build enhanced roads, streets, utilities and parks to make way for more jobs coming into communities.
According to the governors BRAC action report, a 2003 study by the Tri-County Council showed that the BRAC gains from 1995 generated $80 million in revenue from the new jobs in the region.
Edgerley said that communities like St. Marys and Charles had to ensure that they had a vibrant and competitive work force to ensure they could keep the gains theyve received as a result of military programs operating here.
My encouragement is dont relax, Edgerley said about looking for the type of jobs that will be common in the future. They may become elusive.
He praised the work of institutions like the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, which was one improvement that helped St. Marys adjust to BRAC impacts, for keeping the workforce well educated.
Capt. Matt Scassero, vice commander of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, said that getting qualified personnel to work on base was a critical need that seems to never be filled.
He said that as many as 30 to 40 percent of the civilian work force recruited from outside the community to work on the base leave relatively quickly. Those recruited from the community tend to stay much more he said.
They dont feel an attachment to the area, Scassero said. Our attrition is killing us.
The need for qualified personnel could grow stronger in the next two years since the base will become the home of eight multi-billion dollar programs in research and development and test and evaluation, Scassero said.
Scassero also said that affordable housing was another critical need already being addressed by the county government.
At the starting salary for most new employees on the base, between $35,000 to $42,000, he said, it was difficult to attract qualified personnel to the area.
Scasssero said, however, that he was encouraged by the states commitment to include Southern Maryland in the states BRAC development plans.
Edgerley said that after Southern Marylands successful 1995 BRAC the state would use it as a model for how other communities can cope to the changes.
Southern Maryland was the model for how BRAC got done right, Edgerley said. When were looking at other communities we always asking ourselves What did they do in Southern Maryland? How did they get that done?