County talks BRAC ahead with Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment De­part­ment

Looks at strate­gies ahead of po­ten­tial re­align­ment process

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

For years, many in the county have been con­cerned about the fu­ture of Naval Sup­port Fa­cil­ity In­dian Head.

Dur­ing the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers’ Tues­day meet­ing, the com­mis­sion­ers brought in Dar­rell Brown, head of the county’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment de­part­ment, and other key fig­ures to dis­cuss mea­sures to pre­vent the town

and county from los­ing its naval base.

There has been no real in­di­ca­tion that through the De­part­ment of De­fense’s base re­align­ment and clo­sure (BRAC) process the naval base has a chance of be­ing shut- tered, but county and In­dian Head of­fi­cials alike have made it a pri­or­ity to dis­cuss the re­vi­tal­iza- tion of In­dian Head. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the town and the base is part of that dis­cus­sion.

John Bo­hanan, a con­sul­tant from Cor- ner­stone Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs, and Jen­nifer Dionne, a con­sul­tant from At­lantic Strate­gies Group, were both brought in to dis­cuss their ex­pe­ri­ences with base re­align­ment and what the county could do to pre­vent the In­dian Head base from be­ing im­pacted.

“There is go­ing to be a se­ri­ous push [from the De­part­ment of De­fense] for ‘how do we make some sig­nif­i­cant re­duc- tions that re­ally save us money?’” Bo­hanan said.

Com­mu­ni­ties have got- ten “a lot smarter and a lot more so­phis­ti­cated” about how they po­si­tion them­selves with their bases and how they com- pare to their com­pe­ti­tion, he said. The county has to “proac­tively” make sure they are pro­mot­ing with the base.

“You’ve got to make sure your em­ploy­ment cen­ter is a busi­ness. You’ve got to get out and tell that story,” Bo­hanan said. “It does make a dif­fer­ence.”

Dionne said the county, state and other gov­ern-

ment bod­ies are “crit­i­cal” in the lob­by­ing process for spe­cific in­stal­la­tions be­cause base em­ploy­ees are not al­lowed to do so.

At this point, Bo­hanan said, it looks like the next po­ten­tial re­align­ment process would come in 2019. There are 5,500 to­tal jobs and $400 mil­lion in pay­roll at stake, po­ten­tially, for the county, he said.

And though it has not been put in any dan­ger yet, Dionne said there have been costs and mis­sions cut from the In­dian Head base to save money for the de­fense de­part­ment. Though it is not a di­rect re­align­ment and does not show signs of re­align­ment one way or an­other, she said, the re­moval of mis­sions is not a pos­i­tive if there is a po­ten­tial re­align­ment.

Be­cause of the change in pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion, Bo­hanan said, “We should as­sume that a BRAC is im­mi­nent.”

Over the last 18 months, Dionne said, there has been a solid foun­da­tion built by stake­hold­ers look­ing to pre­vent a re­align­ment of the In­dian Head base. But there is more work to do, she said. The next step is to build up a “twoto three-year” strat­egy to be pre­pared for a po­ten­tial re­align­ment process.

Bo­hanan said, at the end of the day, it all hinges on mo­bi­liz­ing the com­mu­nity for a “sense of ur­gency.” If there is not any ur­gency in keep­ing the base, it be­comes vul­ner­a­ble, he said.

So far, the com­mu­nity in Charles County is “get­ting good grades” with its pro­mo­tion of the base and the com­mu­nity’s in­volve­ment in the process.

Tay­lor Yewell, a re­de­vel­op­ment man­ager in the eco­nomic devel­op­ment de­part­ment, said the Town of In­dian Head is do­ing a num­ber of things to help sup­port the town’s econ­omy along with in­te­grat­ing the base into it.

One of those things, he said, is build­ing up a “ve­loc­ity cen­ter” in a va­cant space in the town. The cen­ter would have a cof­fee shop, ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, in­no­va­tion tenant and an an­chor tenant to lease the build­ing.

The plan is to lever­age the ve­loc­ity cen­ter as “a cat­a­lyst” for mixed-use devel­op­ment. It would have both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate oc­cu­pants, he said, and “could oc­cupy ex­ist­ing space, a stand­alone build­ing or be used as a mixed-use project.”

“The im­por­tant point is that this fa­cil­ity will use va­cant or un­der­uti­lized space in the Town of In­dian Head,” Yewell said.

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said there has been a sense of ur­gency dur­ing the time he has served as a com­mis­sioner “and that’s a good thing.” The process has been “un­pre­dictable,” he said, but the county is pre­pared none­the­less.

“In terms of un­pre­dictabil­ity, I think all of you would agree, in changes of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, ev­ery­thing is un­pre­dictable,” he said.

But things are dif­fer­ent now, Dionne said. The coun­try is in a “dif­fer­ent place” with the pos­si­bil­ity of a BRAC round com­ing as early as 2019.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.