When it comes to basking in the glow of a high-performance economic engine, Anne Arundel and Howard counties hit the jackpot due to the influence of Fort George G. Meade.
For starters, contemplate these figures supplied by the post’s Public Information Office: it encompasses 5,400 acres with 65.5 paved miles of roads and about 1,300 buildings; within those boundaries, the post offers businesses opportunities to connect with more than 120 tenant organizations that annually spend billions of dollars.
The most recent economic impact figure from the state of Maryland for Fort Meade is $26.8 billion, “which is more than half of the Department of Defense’s impact in the state,” said Chad Jones, public affairs officer for Fort Meade.
The state also cited $13 billion in total wages. “Those numbers are huge,” Jones said, “when you consider that there about 20 military installations across the state.”
It’s a city
True, Fort Meade is basically a city unto itself which means various factions have a variety of needs. “We work with the community in various ways, but much of our interaction is to connect interested parties,” said Jones, such as politicians, the county councils and local business organizations.
The general issue with doing business with the post concerns, of course, simply gaining access to a diverse military base that is focused on the secretive activities of DOD intelligence agencies, most notably the U.S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency.
But depending on the business or its market on the post, that may or may not be an issue, simply due to Fort Meade’s reach and power. That means that the post needs the support of the region’s businesses large and small, with its necessities ranging from vertical and horizontal construction, landscaping and facilities renovation, and maintenance to child care, staffing, training, information technology, cybersecurity, etc., to support its defense and civilian agencies.
While those needs are all sizable, there’s one more that’s as hard to fill on post as they are on the outside.
“The biggest challenge for our 120 partner organizations is attracting and retaining workforce,” said Jones. “What keeps them here is the quality of life in the region.”
The big 3
While the post offers myriad business possibilities, the Fort Meade Alliance focuses its work on the big three agencies, U.S. Cyber Command, NSA and DISA, “with the aim of leveraging the offerings of the small business community to those agencies,” said FMA General Manager Tim O’Ferrall.
To that end, the FMA offers such events as Business in a Minute, which facilitates up to 800 in-person meetings in one day to connect local small businesses to NSA. The FMA also offers a virtual program called In Pieces, which is an engagement session by NSA for those businesses and prime contractors.
For DISA, the FMA hosts the DISA Small Business Conference, where the agency shares its processes that include breakout sessions to present contract vehicles and provide a top-level forecast of the technology and skill sets it requires; and DISA Business Match, which is modeled after the NSA event, for up to 200 small business attendees.
“That accelerates the learning curve for the small businesses,” said O’Ferrall.
Coming up in March, the FMA will host its annual forecast for the industry for the big three. Acquisition leaders will be on hand to discuss trends in contracting and the challenges of winning their business which represents about $20 billion in annual contracts.
Of late, the FMA is offering the Micro Business Mentorship Program, as well as a monthly meetup with the Meade Business Connect Committee to discuss current issues.
Another local organization that has a keen in interest in integrating its members with decision makers on post is the Central Maryland Chamber, which works toward that end with its Military Affairs Committee, a large group that supports service members, families, and veterans.
The members “are honored to support events and volunteer activities,” said CMC President and CEO Kristi Simon, “but they also get access and make incredible connections with the staff and community on post.”
For its part, the CMC regularly invites Fort Meade leadership to its events so members can connect with decision makers. It also hosts an annual Fort Meade Update so its businesses “can hear directly from the garrison commander about the installation’s needs and expected growth.” Simon said.
As Simon noted, inviting key personnel from the post to events is key to connection. On that note, the keynote speaker at the most recent BWI Business Partnership Signature Breakfast was Garrison Commander Michael Sapp.
That event, like many others, also offered the opportunity to highlight how the Partnership “assists the post with transit issues concerning the Mass Transit Administration, as well as its Locally Operated Transit System,” said Executive Director Gina Stewart.
The Partnership “is the post’s transportation support line. We advocate and remind the transit operators that Fort Meade is a huge employment center and to remember it when conducting transportation studies,” Stewart said, also noting her presence on the board for Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s budget town halls (for Region 4, in this case), where she represented the Partnership and served as a conduit to the post.
She added that she is simply continuing the Partnership’s longtime efforts to heighten connection with Fort Meade.
“Before my time here, our organization was instrumental in discussions concerning the expansion of Route 175 with the SHA and the other concerned parties,” she said, “as well as connecting the Fort with Lyft to get drivers cleared” so they could serve customers on post.
While the various efforts to build upon Fort Meade’s jaw-dropping impact on the state’s economy continue, Jones said the post “still doesn’t look at it from a mission perspective, per se, since that’s not our number one aim.
“However, we do aim to work with all interested parties who want to improve the quality of life for the 63,000 employees who work here, their families,” etc., he said, “which dovetails off post. We can’t be the nation’s platform for intelligence information and cyber operations without strong connections to the community.”