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.

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