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O’Malley gets job-surge blueprint

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ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland's blueprint for turning thousands of military jobs into a powerful economic engine — instead of a development nightmare — includes an emphasis on improving science-and-technology education and billions of dollars in investments in infrastructure.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat who was chairman of a subcabinet on how to prepare for as many as 60,000 potential new jobs, yesterday submitted a report with the overall plan to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat. Mr. Brown said Maryland is experiencing the most growth of any state in military-related jobs on a per capita basis because of the base-realignment plan approved in 2005.

The exact number of jobs Maryland will receive is not clear. However, conservative estimates in the report indicate there will be about 15,500 direct jobs and 23,000 indirect jobs, such as contractors working with military bases. There also will be about 7,300 support jobs, such as retail positions or day-care jobs, because of decisions made by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, also known as BRAC.

Most of the jobs will be in nine jurisdictions — Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's counties and Baltimore City. Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County is set to get about 10,000 jobs, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County will get an estimated 13,000.

Handling the strain on roads and schools will be the biggest challenges, Mr. Brown said.

The Maryland Department of Transportation has identified 26 BRAC-related projects in an $8.5 billion draft proposal for 2008 to 2013. The state already has allocated $1.6 billion for BRAC projects, including the widening of Interstate 95 north of Baltimore City and widening of Maryland Route 175 near Fort Meade.

Mr. Brown also said the state plans to invest $1 billion in MARC commuter trains from now to 2015.

The report estimates that 70 percent of the new jobs will be filled by Maryland residents.

To help make sure the state will be ready to supply the work force, the state has taken several steps that include:

• Setting up employment licensing and certification reciprocity with New Jersey and Virginia.

•Opening one-stop career centers in Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and in Northern Virginia.

• Working to enhance science and math education to prepare students for the jobs.

The plan also calls for instituting a program to encourage students to avoid getting into legal trouble that could jeopardize future employment in the military.

"BRAC will be here in 2011, but it is not an end date as the lieutenant governor underscored," Mr. O'Malley said. "We have an obligation not just to preserve our quality of life, but to improve it."

During the 2007 General Assembly session, the state set aside nearly $2 billion for BRAC-related improvements over the next five years.

"In [fiscal year] 2008 alone, the state will invest $785 million on K-12 public school and community college construction, highway improvements, transit and wastewater-treatment plants in communities that will experience the most significant BRAC-related growth," the report stated.

More BRAC-related investments will be proposed next year.

The O'Malley administration also plans to push for three pieces of legislation to help address BRAC growth.

The first proposal includes bolstering higher-education initiatives by setting aside some of the $55 million that has been approved by the General Assembly for higher education.

The second proposal relates to creating a program to encourage residential development in communities affected by the base realignment, called BRAC Zones.

The third is a proposal that involves giving state and local governments flexibility in negotiating with private developers to receive lump payments instead of steady streams of property tax revenue.

The military has been offering leases to private developers who build amenities on bases, developments that are subject to state and county property taxes. The idea is to make it easier to generate money for roads, water and sewage treatment plants.

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