Fort Meade’s economic contribution is massive, but kids contribute too

Steve Tiller discusses Fort Meade’s economic power and how military families contribute. Interview by Glenn Slaughter.

Describing the economic impact of Fort Meade usually leads to terms like “construction contracts” and “tax revenue”. What’s not often heard in these conversations are the words “military child“, but children are a vital part of the local economy.

Steve Tiller is the president of the Fort Meade Alliance. It’s his group’s job to grow and maintain good relationships between the base and its surrounding communities. Tiller understands that fighting for the base’s survival is a marathon, that it’s about more than just the troops currently working there.

“A lot of military members who end up serving on Fort Meade end up retiring and staying in Central Maryland,” Tiller said. “When these people stay, often times their kids stay. We certainly want to take care of those, and educate those kids to the best of our ability.”

To forward this goal, Tiller is working with Anne Arundel county’s schools to educate teachers on the challenges that military children face. Service members change locations about every three years, and their kids have to make new friends every time. The Fort Meade Alliance understands that these kids could one day become Central Maryland residents, spending their paychecks and paying taxes.

“A lot of those kids are going to ultimately stay in our region, and so we want to make sure they are well-educated and well-supported,” Tiller said.

Tiller admits that their motivation to keep retired troops and their kids in the area is selfish.

“These people are smart,” he said. “They’re highly motivated. They’re well-trained. They’re mature. We want those types of people in our community…buying school supplies, buying school lunches, buying clothes, participating in local soccer leagues.”

Tiller’s commitment to working with local schools carries into high school and higher education as well. Project SCOPE is a FMA initiative designed to educate students of all ages about getting a job that requires a security clearance. The program informs about how bad decisions in a student’s past can affect the ability to obtain a clearance, and the lucrative job that comes with it.

The end result, according to Tiller, is to support military families and their kids, in the hopes that they stay local and become (or continue to be) part of Meade’s highly-skilled workforce.

The economic impact of Fort Meade on the surrounding communities is a complex topic. Tiller said he and his group will remain focused on military kids, and all other areas of the local economy, to ensure the long-term viability of the base.

Fort Meade: Understanding the economic powerhouse

As the largest base in the state of Maryland, the economic impact of Fort George G. Meade has always been formidable. As modern warfare shifts more and more to the digital battlefield, the base continues to grow.

The connections between Fort Meade and the local businesses form a complex economic web. While the details of individual troop spending habits aren’t tracked, an understanding of the overall economic impact of the base can be gained by talking to the experts.

Towson Economic Impact Study
Fort Meade’s economic output equals almost half of all other Md. bases combined. Infographic source:

Steven Tiller is president of the Fort Meade Alliance, and leads this influential group in maintaining good relationships between local businesses and Fort Meade. As the former chair of FMA’s Meade Business Connect committee, he has first-hand experience in creating business opportunities between the civilian and military communities.

Tiller understands that Fort Meade is becoming the front line in a new type of warfare. That means more troops will be added to the base, which means economic growth. The businesses in the surrounding communities are always interested in hiring the newly-retired, highly-trained service members that leave Fort Meade.

Towson Economic Impact Study list
As of 2012, the base employed almost 200,000 people, many of whom are civilians. Infographic source:

Retired Army General Dean Ertwine sits on the Maryland Military Installation Council at Maryland’s Department of Commerce. His job is to understand the impact that the development of Maryland military bases has on local communities, especially from tax revenue, and help maximize the economic benefits to those communities.

Any conversation about Fort Meade economics needs to include Maryland Live!, the huge casino up the street from base. For better or worse, the casino’s existence is tied to the money that flows from the troops into its machines. Robert Norton, as president of the casino, understands how important the base is to his business. He’s been around since the Maryland Live! was constructed and has big plans to expand.

Perhaps the most dubious of transactions are those between service members and car dealers. Many of these troops are living away from home for the first time, and are at risk of being taken advantage of when they buy their first vehicle. Many of the dealerships in the Fort Meade area offer military discounts. The managers of these facilities could shed light on how much the base contributes to their bottom line. It is their business to tap into the vast market of car buyers living on Fort Meade.

It would take years to explore every avenue of spending in this area. We can get closer to this goal by collecting statistics from the officials charged with studying and fostering the military/business relationship. There is also value in gathering information on the individual level. Where does Navy Seaman Jones spend money? What car dealership did Corporal Haller decide to buy from, and why? With patient research, a solid view of the economic impact of Fort Meade’s troops can be obtained.

Navy public affairs students host 10th Anniversary celebration

One month in, and it’s already been a busy summer for the Navy MC students on Fort Meade. They’ve been churning out successful events like the Pasta Prom, but a major milestone gave them a chance to shine even brighter.

In 2006, the Mass Communication Specialist rating was born. This was a huge deal because it combined four jobs into one, meaning a former Photographer’s Mate now had to learn to write stories, for example. The youngest batch of MCs just had the honor of hosting the community’s  10-year anniversary after-party.

The barbecue was held at the student barracks, and saw influential storytellers arrive from around the world. It was a day for mingling old school with the new. Seaman Apprentice Ian Kinkead was a bit shell shocked to see such heavy hitters.

“When I was in boot camp, I thought I’d never see a master chief walking around,” he said. “I figured if I did, it would be because I was in serious trouble.”

He’s the president of the local chapter of CSADD, or Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions. His group is absolutely killing it this year. With assistance from the Petty Officers Association, they held various fundraisers to finance the BBQ.

If the students’ performance is a sign of what’s to come, the fleet should expect great things from their newest Mass Communication Specialists.

Fort Meade farmer’s market struggles with identity

United States service members have a huge array of food to choose from, but more choices don’t always mean better ones. To swing the influence away from fast food and over to fresh food, the Department of Defense (DoD) introduced the Healthy Base Initiative in 2013.

The Fort Meade farmer’s market was a direct result of that initiative. Looking around today, one would hardly recognize it from its first year. In 2013, it began as a collection of local farmers, selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Along side them were sellers peddling other homemade items, including bread, dressings and soaps.

Oh how times have changed.

Today, all but one produce stand is gone. The bread and dressings are nowhere to be seen, replaced by coffee, dessert and wine vendors. Nearby, several food trucks sell Greek, Cajun and other hot meals.

Sherri Council, the owner of Hope On Soap, has been here since the first year. She’s moved her booth inside the Fort Meade Pavilion, away from the wind.

There are only several vendors here, but incredibly there’s another soap seller directly across from her.

“I’m happy to come out and work here,” Council said with a smile. “I’m doing okay. In fact, I’m almost sold out today.”

Looking across the aisle at her competitor she adds: “But you have to wonder with so few vendors, why they’re duplicating product sellers like this.”

Perhaps there’s a large demand for homemade soap. There certainly doesn’t seem to be one for produce. While the food here is good and the vibe friendly, it may be time to change the name from “farmer’s market” to something more suitable.


Too many lost, Navy changes body fat rules

Sailors work out at the Defense Information School. Photo courtesy of I Am Your Eyes.

It happens twice a year and for some Sailors, it’s pretty painful. The U.S. Navy Physical Fitness Assessment, or PFA, can be a game changer for those that fail it, but some much-needed reprieve is here.

According to Julie Watson at, the problem isn’t the fitness part of the exam, when Sailors perform pushups, sit-ups and cardio. The issue is they can’t pass the body fat assessment that comes just before all that. The solution? The Navy just raised the body fact percentage maximums for men and women.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that current times call for more modern testing.

“It’s far more realistic,” Mabus said of the new body fat standards. “We were kicking more people out of the Navy for failing that, than for drugs.”

Watson said a new school of thought is slowly gaining strength in the military. Why should all jobs be held to the same standard of physical fitness, when clearly not all are created equal? For example, some are now saying that drone operators and cyber security specialists have no need to stay in top physical form in order to complete their mission.

Petty Officer Elliott Fabrizio rejected claims that this is making the Navy softer.

“This is not to account for a loosening but to accommodate different and changing body types,” he said. “One example is body building, which has become much more popular since these standards were first issued. I’ve seen many gym-rat Sailors that get taped every time because they’re too heavy.”

Here at the Defense Media Activity, many service members don’t need to move beyond their cubicle in order to get the job done. From social media teams to IT specialists, it’s all digital. The changes just took effect last January, and the next PFA is in about a month. For now, the best bet may be to train as hard as if the old rules were still in place.

For more information on the new standards visit