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.”
— Fort Meade Alliance (@FtMeadeAlliance) August 11, 2016
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.