WASHINGTON – The budget passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this month will pave the way for a surge of new residents from the military Base Realignment and Closure process, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown told lobbyists Tuesday.
Brown was guest speaker at the Washington Area State Relations Group’s annual meeting. The group invites prominent state government officials to speak about state policy, said Steve Blackistone, local and state liaison for the National Transportation and Safety Board, and WASRG member. It includes members who represent businesses and organizations affected by BRAC.
“Maryland is ready today for the single largest job growth, economic growth activity that our state has experienced since World War II,” Brown told about 40 people at the National Press Club. “We look forward to the arrival of our new neighbors.”
Brown, as chairman of the governor’s panel on BRAC, is preparing the state for the anticipated arrival of 28,000 households and 60,000 jobs, he said. The migration will occur over four years, with the bulk of the increase expected in 2011. The plan is due to Gov. Martin O’Malley Dec. 17.
He credited the General Assembly for providing resources in the budget passed in the special session. “(It) ensured we are ready for BRAC,” he said.
About $1.4 billion is expected to go for MARC Train, which Brown described as “the system that connects the most important corridor” of Delaware, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Baltimore City and Washington.
The plan will also identify state, federal and private procurement opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses in the state, he said. And it will identify training programs in science and technology to realign the workforce to meet BRAC needs.
“Maryland has a demonstrated track record in BRAC expansion in the 1990s with Patuxent Navel Air Station,” Brown added. “(The) sleepy bedroom community grew into a robust economic region” with the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.
BRAC represents the largest growth, expected to be about 15 percent, in Maryland over the next 10 years, Brown added.
When asked about the plan to retain and attract businesses, Brown said the state was focused on programs to help small business. Big businesses are not necessarily coming here, he added.
“Maryland is not a business-unfriendly state, but we sometimes get that bad rap,” he said.
Many of the WASRG members who live in Bethesda were concerned about BRAC’s impact on traffic around the National Naval Medical Center, which will combine with Walter Reed Army Medical Center to form the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Brown said he was working with Montgomery County to study options such as building a new ramp off the Capital Beltway, creating a tunnel or bridge to Metro and expanding public transit.
Compare Bethesda’s problem to Aberdeen, which will have to deal with water, school and housing, in addition to transportation, Brown said: “The good news is that it’s only transportation. The bad news is that it’s transportation. It’s a tight area with limited options.”