- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

No gridlock, low real-estate prices and quality education are a few of the incentives Northern Virginia workers are being offered to follow their jobs to Huntsville, Ala.

Arlington is losing 17,000 civilian and military jobs, some of them to Huntsville, because of the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan.

While military members have no choice but to move, civilians working for the Defense Department can quit instead of going south to follow their jobs.

“We do what we can to get people to go with their jobs, because we want to retain the knowledge that they have,” said Pat Craver of the Missile Defense Agency, who came to Arlington for a job fair on Thursday. The agency will move 2,248 jobs from Arlington to Huntsville by 2011, when BRAC takes effect.

The process, which one official compared to a “giant shell game,” attempts to make military bases more efficient by closing or restructuring them. Congress established the first BRAC commission in 1989 to depoliticize the process.

Maryland stands to gain thousands of jobs, and Arlington is expected to lose 17,000. The loss will leave the area with roughly 4 million square feet of empty office space and likely will affect the commercial real-estate market for years.

Joe Rich, executive director of the Tennessee Valley BRAC Committee, gave a list of reasons why people would like the change.

“I think the three top things are short commute times, affordable housing and quality of education,” he said.

The fair, which included government officials and members of the Huntsville business community, was created for spouses of civilian employees contemplating a move.

Some attendees said they were excited about the possibility of leaving the congested and expensive Beltway region for a less-expensive, more relaxed lifestyle.

“Quality of life — we’re going to get that back,” said Missile Defense Agency employee Karen Stradford-Wright, 48. “No more commuting for four hours out of the day. The cost of living is a lot less there.”

Her husband, Joe Wright Jr., 47, said he would miss the history and culture of the region including the accessibility to arts, theater and the Smithsonian museums. However, he was happy to leave behind one thing — traffic.

“I will not miss the gridlock,” he said.

Mr. Wright’s daily commute includes riding the Virginia Railway Express and Metro, and then walking six blocks.

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