Pr. George's not likely to see boon from Andrews

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010

The federal base realignment and closing plan will transfer thousands of new employees to Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, but the jobs are unlikely to result in the kind of economic boom that will take place near other military installations across the Washington region, including Fort Meade.

"This is one of the things that no one is talking about," said David Byrd, deputy chief administrative officer for economic development for Prince George's.

Andrews, which is home to more than 20,000 civilian and active-duty military personnel and families, will gain 400 new jobs from BRAC and an additional 2,600 jobs as a result of the Air Force and Air National Guard moving part of their headquarters from Virginia. The number of BRAC and non-BRAC employees at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County will increase by 20,000.

Andrews will become Prince George's largest employer over the next decade, but county officials say they cannot speculate on whether the increase in jobs will have a significant impact on the county's economy. Many of the new employees may not move to the county, and all of the jobs will be on the base, said Byrd, the county's BRAC liaison.

Currently, the University of Maryland at College Park is the county's largest employer.

"The problem is, while we will get an influx of jobs coming here, they are inside the gate," Byrd said. "The impact that these folks will have on Prince George's economy is questionable. If they are going to live and move here, that's additional home-buying, but if they are just going to commute from Northern Virginia and go home to Northern Virginia, the impact is questionable."

Eric Sharman, a spokesman for Andrews, said he anticipates traffic to "increase significantly" as workers commute from Virginia. He said he is uncertain whether workers will move to the county. "That is up to the individual to decide," he said.

But Sharman said local businesses should benefit.

"If you work in that building, you have to take your dry cleaning somewhere; you have to eat lunch somewhere," he said. "It's going to create a sense of community."

$1 billion impact

Andrews is an operational facility that hosts Air Force One and flights for other statesmen and dignitaries, receives wounded soldiers and provides other functions for the Air Force.

Fort Meade, home of the fourth-largest workforce among Army installations, has a research and development component. The base is home to a number of federal agencies and military services, including the National Security Agency, the Defense Information School and the Asymmetric Warfare Group. Fort Meade also will become home to the U.S. Cyber Command, a new unit that will focus on cyber security.

"The contract and procurement generated from Andrews doesn't create the dollar volume, nor the types of jobs - the high-tech, high-paying science-tech jobs - as do Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground and on a smaller scale Fort Detrick," said Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), chairman of the governor's subcabinet on BRAC. "So as a result, it's not the economic engine that some of the other military installations are.

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