Pax River NAS CO CAPT. Scott Starkey and Commissioner President Randy Guy co-chaired the meeting.

Lexington Park, MD — A new organization has formed to help boost the economy in St. Mary’s County.

The Southern Maryland Navy Alliance (*SMNA) recently launched a consortium called Aero Maryland. The blueprint for the new organization was provided by alliance board member Pete Williams (shown at left) during a Oct. 4 joint meeting of the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County and the leadership of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station (Pax River) at the Frank Knox Training Center.

According to Williams, Aero Maryland’s activities “will be focused on promoting work in Southern Maryland and eliminating barriers for bringing in new work and new companies.”

Aero Maryland will operate as a consortium and become a 501-C-6 corporation under IRS regulations. It will work with the Navy and other government entities to develop economic activity and “promote a more efficient contracting model.”

The SMNA is a mature member organization formed to protect the base. Members include the defense industry and other community businesses and organizations.

St. Mary’s County has long sought to diversify its economy, which is 80 percent dependent on Pax River and the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Williams also said the Department of Defense has also proposed another round of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), which could consolidate Navy, Air Force and Army acquisition commands in 2019.

“I think it is safe to say there will be one,” he predicted.

While Williams doesn’t expect Pax River to go away, he predicts Research, Development, Test and Devaluation (RDT&E) activity will continue to decline.

St. Mary’s County’s economy is showing mixed economic signals, according to the data supplied by Williams.

Per capita income continue to rise, while home sales and prices have began to slump. County revenue between 2013-15 rose by a still healthy 4.5 percent, but that paled in comparison to the whopping 18.6 percent rise in 2009-2011.

Of the $42 billion in work done every year at Pax River, $32 billion leaves the county with the large defense contractors headquartered elsewhere. It’s some of that lost revenue that SMNA hopes to capture with their new initiative. Even 1 percent could be big bucks for the county

So according to Williams, at a series of informal meetings have been held earlier this year to talk about how to jump start the economy resulted in the creation of the idea of Aero Maryland. Williams described Aero Maryland as “a new business model that is designed to facilitate bringing in new and different types of work for Southern Maryland.”

Williams said Aero Maryland would have its own board under a “parent/child” relationship with the alliance.

He said one of the first needs of the new organization will be the hiring of an executive director. He added that the search for that person is now under way. The founding board would run things until the director is hired. The alliance will provide seed money to hire  the director and will seek more funding from community members and the state.

The county’s legislative delegation attended the briefing.

“We really have to have a buy in of the local community,” Williams said.

The joint meeting was co-chaired by Pax River Commanding Officer CAPT. Scott Starkey and Commissioner President Randy Guy.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com