Contractors follow customers in BRAC relocations

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, June 21, 2010

Government agencies are not the only organizations relocating as part of the Defense Department's base relocation and closure process known as BRAC. Many contractors are moving too, following their Army and Pentagon customers to make sure they hold on to the work they have -- and potentially win new business.

For USfalcon, a small defense contractor with an office in Shrewsbury, N.J., near Fort Monmouth, following the Army's communications and electronics command as it relocates to Aberdeen, Md., was a no-brainer.

Just four years ago, the North Carolina-based firm won a major Army contract, which was recently extended through 2016, said Skip Eskridge, the firm's senior vice president.

"We've been successful doing good work for" the communications and electronics command, he said. "It's just like with any other business -- you need to be where your customers are."

USfalcon is shopping for a new office in Aberdeen and moving staff out of its Shrewsbury facility, which Eskridge said will shut down unless the company finds a new customer in the area.

After learning of the Pentagon's realignment plans, Metuchen, N.J.-based Ace Electronics, an electronics manufacturing services company, immediately laid out its own five-year strategy, which included opening a Maryland office last summer, said Susan Di Vila, the company's director of business development.

"We took it as an opportunity," she said, adding that the company wants to hang on to two major contracts and hopes to win more work with the military.

Bigger players, too, are making the move. Booz Allen Hamilton has closed a location in Eatontown, N.J., and opened a new office in Aberdeen, said Senior Vice President Nicole Funk.

The firm, which already had one building in Aberdeen, has more than doubled its footprint and now has about 250 employees there, Funk said. She said the company plans to continue to grow in the area.

After closing its Eatontown office, Booz Allen opened a smaller office in nearby Red Bank, N.J., to serve remaining customers at military locations like Fort Dix and Picatinny Arsenal.

Fort Meade is also attracting incumbent contract holders. In March, Dulles-based information technology company Technica opened a new office in Columbia as part of a Defense Information Systems Agency contract. DISA -- Technica's largest customer -- is moving from Arlington to Fort Meade under the Pentagon's base realignment program.

Mark O'Donnell, Technica's senior vice president for business development, said the firm now has more than 13,000 square feet in Columbia -- about 7,600 dedicated to the DISA contract and another 5,600 available for expansion.

Though contractors are moving to both locations, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) said the transition to Aberdeen has thus far been more urgent.

"There's less of an option for them to stay where they are in New Jersey and commute to Aberdeen," he said of the contractors.

But Brown said the state expects additional growth at Fort Meade as time goes on, as agencies elsewhere in the Washington region consolidate around the base near the Howard County and Anne Arundel County border.

Though the contracting field appears crowded, Renée M. Winsky, chief executive of trade association the Technology Council of Maryland, said there will be plenty of chances for local companies to win work.

"I think there's still lots of opportunities for highly skilled workers as well as for companies to take advantage of those contracts," she said.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company