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Plan for jobs at former fort aired

April 29, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - The president of a Baltimore company addressed Cascade-area residents directly Wednesday with a plan he said he believes would bring hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs back to the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.

Some residents attending the annual Cascade community meeting questioned why his plan would work after years of little progress in the redevelopment process.

Andrew Klopman, president of Strategic Alliance Group Inc., said the company wants to become the master developer for the former Army base and would bring back jobs in the areas of technology, health and training.

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Klopman said part of the first phase of the company's proposed plan is to bring in the Daewoo Corp. on general contracting and master developing work. Klopman said the Korean-based Daewoo has "more than expressed an interest" in taking on the project and would be involved almost immediately with erecting an on-site power plant and moving gas and electrical lines at the base.

"For them to come into this area, they're going to have to hire people in this area. They're not bringing a work force with them," Klopman said.

He said projects such as building a power plant are crucial to enticing high-tech companies to the area.

"Then your growth will start and people will come," he said.

Earlier this month, Klopman said he offered a $500,000 deposit to the PenMar Development Corp. to become lead developer for the 630-acre base.

PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook has said PenMar's "main interest" was with Lerner Enterprises, based in North Bethesda, Md., and that the deposit offer was not formally made.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the base, which the Army shut down in 1998. The move resulted in a loss of about 2,000 jobs.

Some said they were skeptical because of stalled efforts to redevelop the property.

"I'm all for the idea, but we've been through this before," said Mary Rae Cantwell of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. "How do we know that what you're saying could possibly even happen?"

Some said they were concerned that Klopman has not handled a redevelopment plan of this scale and did not address concerns on issues such as road quality.

"I guess my biggest concern is the infrastructure," said Debbie Odom, who lives at the former base. "What are they going to do?"

"He never did answer those questions," said Chuck West, another resident of the former base.

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