As BRAC officially ends, a snapshot of where people live
All the federal jobs targeted for relocation to Maryland in the national military base reshuffling effort are in place now, in advance of Thursday's deadline.
So where is everyone?
Thanks to the Army and the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor, we have a fairly detailed picture of where employees of C4ISR -- the acronym for the umbrella group of high-tech organizations that moved from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey to Aberdeen Proving Ground -- are now living.
The intel on Fort Meade newcomers is much less specific, but I've got some demographics from the largest agency to relocate there.
The Army and the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor surveyed C4ISR employees to find out where they are now. Drumroll, please:
Just over 60 percent -- 1,835 of the 3,024 survey-takers -- say they're living in Harford County, where the base is located.
Eighteen percent are living in Cecil, the county to the north.
Six percent are living in New Castle County, Del. (east of Cecil).
Five percent are living in Baltimore County.
Two-and-a-half percent (77 workers) are living in Baltimore.
Several Pennsylvania counties rank just under the city, though together, Chester, Lancaster and York counties add up to 4 percent.
These results are almost exactly the same as those from a survey taken last year, when the rate of relocation was revving up. About 8,000 jobs were moved in all, most with the original workers coming with them, some filled by new hires and (as of right now) some still empty.
This distribution doesn't get at everyone whose job transferred to APG. The C4ISR folks represent the largest group that moved there, but not the entirety. Contractors, meanwhile, weren't surveyed. And not everyone eligible to take the survey did (though 3,000 is pretty good).
Harford County makes sense as a place for the migrants to settle because it's where the base is located. But why are Cecil and Delaware more popular than Baltimore County and Baltimore?
Steve Overbay, the BRAC coordinator at the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor, said some of it could be explained by dual-income couples trying to split their commutes.
"It may be you have one spouse working in Philadelphia," he said. Also, he noted, many BRAC workers "still have family in the New Jersey area or they still own homes there, so they choose to work a compressed work week and then commute back."
In fact, some workers haven't moved at all. "There are people ... taking a daily bus from New Jersey," said Bob DiMichele, a public affairs officer for the Communications-Electronics Command, the largest of the C4ISR organizations.
Some of the 127 survey-takers who gave addresses in APG's ZIP code, 21005, just have post office boxes there.
Most popular ZIP code: 21015, one of Bel Air's two ZIPs -- the one that's closer to the base. Just over 400 survey-takers gave that as their address. Havre de Grace -- 21078 -- and Bel Air's other ZIP code, 21014, were essentially tied for second, with about 280 each.
Rounding out the top five: Elkton (21921) in Cecil County, with 210 survey-takers, and Abingdon (21009) in Harford County, with 205.
Many of the movers who chose Baltimore settled in southeastern neighborhoods to be near an on-ramp to Interstate 95. Lisa Potteiger, a training manager at the Communications-Electronics Command, moved to Canton two years ago -- she was one of the earlier relocatees. She said it typically takes her 45 minutes to get to work.
That seems to be how long it takes a lot of the APG workers. Kent Woods, who as the G3 of the Communications-Electronics Command is essentially the agency's operations officer, said his commute from Newark, Del. is 40 to 45 minutes. Mitch Mayer, an electronics engineer who relocated from Fort Monmouth to Baltimore, said newcomers who settled in Bel Air complain that it takes them 40 minutes -- only five minutes less than it takes him, even though they're half as many miles away.
But DiMichele, who lives in Cecil County, said he can usually make it in 25 minutes.
It makes sense that commuters coming north or south to APG can get there with less time per mile than people living west of the base, which sits against the Chesapeake Bay. Jim Richardson, Harford's economic development director, said the county needs help with its east-west traffic flow on state roads. North-south is good, he said, except at "pinch points" caused by east-west problems. (See this story for some discussion about road projects near the bases, and why more haven't been started already.)
As for Fort Meade: The Defense Information Systems Agency transferred about 4,300 jobs there when it relocated its headquarters from Northern Virginia. Anne Arundel County officials figured workers would largely commute at first rather than move because it's a tough time to sell a home, it is possible (if not fun) to make that commute and DISA lets employees telework up to three days a week.
That's basically what has happened. “The number of Virginians that have moved is relatively small ... in the overall scheme of things," said David Bullock, DISA’s BRAC executive. "We’re probably looking at less than 1,000 that were actually willing to move."
But about half of DISA's workers now live in Maryland, compared with just 20 percent pre-BRAC. That's because the agency has been doing a lot of hiring the last few years, and a lot of those employees are Marylanders. Especially in recent months.
"Once the jobs started moving here, then we started to get many more people from Maryland accepting jobs," Bullock said.