EDC considers military subcommittee

ALBANY -- Members of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize staff to study the viability of creating a subcommittee that would focus on the needs and interests of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and its components.

The vote follows a recent trip by board members and staff to the Pentagon, where they met with Assistant USMC Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, USMC Chief of Staff and Former LOGCOM Commanding General Lt. Gen. Willie Williams and liaisons between the federal government and defense industry.

EDC President Ted Clem said the military officials were excited about the work being done at the facility and that they expected the workload to increase.

"As I'm sure you all can imagine, in shifting equipment and forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, it's a lot like going from driving down an interstate to a pig trail," Clem said. "The terrain is rough on the vehicles, and it looks like that will provide some additional work for our folks here."

MCLB-Albany is home to the Maintenance Center which repairs military vehicles.

Discussions also turned to the future of the base, Clem said, and the possibility that another round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission talks might be looming in the coming years.

That, coupled with the EDC's goal of promoting and recruiting defense industry jobs to Albany, prompted Clem to pitch the idea of forming a subcommittee of the EDC devoted to the needs and interests of the base.

According to Clem, the subcommittee would be largely modeled after the Alliance for Progress, a group created years ago to help rally support and lobby congress to keep MCLB-Albany off the BRAC list.

The idea sat well with board members.

Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis said it was time that Albany and Dougherty County developed a body to focus on the needs of the base, given how vital an economic engine it is.

"It would make sense that we would have a standing committee," Crowdis said. "I'm sure Warner Robins and Moody (Air Force Base) have their own permanent groups in their towns, and I think it would be a good fit here."

Clem said the group would also focus on the economic development aspect of doing business with the local base in hopes of recruiting businesses that will create more jobs.

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which is a member of the EDC, already has a military affairs committee, but the goals of that body are different from the ones sought by the EDC's subcommittee, although a member from the chamber's group would likely have a seat at the table of the EDC's group, Clem said.

Dougherty County and Albany are already geared toward facilitating growth in and around the base.

Special tax zones that offer incentives to businesses to move and create jobs have been established in three tracts near the base, and talks are continuing on getting State Highway 133 -- long discussed as vital to the base as a corridor -- widened.

But it was the most recent collaboration between the Department of the Navy and the Dougherty County Commission -- a venture that would convert gas created at the Dougherty County Landfill to useable energy at the base -- that has the potential to reap massive benefits, Clem said.

"That was one of the items that they (the generals) were very proud of," Clem said. "It's a green way to create energy and shows what happens when the military and local government work together."

That system is the first of its kind in the U.S. military and will likely be a model for similar operations at bases around the country.