Building Our Technology Future
When the government announced closings of military bases across the country, states panicked. But Delaware won a unique opportunity: to be part of the largest technology advancement in decades. That means job creation. Welcome to tomorrow.
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Driving through Aberdeen Proving Ground is like taking a trip back in time. Rusted-out foreign military vehicles, seized in past wars and shipped to Aberdeen for testing, sit beside half-demolished testing facilities. Run-down barracks line narrow streets congested with cars and trucks. Tired old houses provide office space.
But change is coming to Aberdeen. Standing in stark contrast to its surroundings is a sleek bluish-green glass structure known as C4ISR. The 2.5 million-square-foot “mini-Pentagon” is home to the Army’s Command, Control, Computer, Communication, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operation. That’s one federal agency—and a mouthful of a name—that is transforming the World War I-era installation from a low-tech munitions facility into a major research center—and Delaware is playing a major part.
The expansion is the result of the Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC), which will bring 8,200 highly technical jobs from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. An additional 7,500 to 10,000 supporting jobs could also be created, according to the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, a tri-state group that includes New Castle County.
“It’s a bright spot in terms of economic opportunity,” says Karen Holt, the regional BRAC manager, who is based across the Susquehanna River in Harford County, Maryland. “It’s the most significant impact in the area since World War II in terms of job growth.”
Meanwhile, 35 miles up I-95, crews work to dismantle what’s left of the old Chrysler assembly plant, which the University of Delaware acquired last year. Soon the 60-year-old Newark landmark, which employed generations of workers—4,000 at its peak—will be a memory. Taking its place will be a state-of-the art hub for high-tech research, business and academia.
The project will not only reshape the university’s south campus, but position it to attract research partnerships with the BRAC-enhanced Aberdeen—opportunities that could further its goals of achieving national prominence in science and technological development and becoming an engine of job creation for the state.
“The possibilities are endless,” says David Weir, director of the university’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. “When you consider all the technology that goes into the battlefield components associated with C4ISR, all the research is going to take place at APG.”
With the research will come federal dollars, an additional source of revenue in a time of declining appropriations and slumping endowments. The university also stands to gain tuition from partnering with Aberdeen to offer graduate courses to employees. “We hire them at the bachelor’s level, and if they last, they’ll need to earn master’s degrees to move into senior positions,” says Michael Lombardi, director of outreach for the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) at Aberdeen.
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