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Local chapter supports new education building

Dear St. Mary’s County Citizens,
It is time we stand together as a community and get involved to show that we take seriously the need to close the economic divide by aggressively confronting economic diversification, job growth, and new technological education in St. Mary’s County. 

The St. Mary’s County Branch of the NAACP is equally as committed to economic diversification efforts that will close the economic divide by providing jobs for professional and skilled workers.  As it stands, St. Mary’s County has an opportunity to be the driving force in the new technology of Unmanned Aircraft and Autonomous Systems.  Thanks to a partnership between the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC), the University System of Maryland (USM) and the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, we are poised to take the lead. 

A research facility recognized as USM/ SMHEC Building 3 is at the heart of this opportunity, however there is a problem. While $2.5 million dollars were allocated over the last two years for Building 3, the State's Capital Improvement Plan, released in January 2015, does not include the additional $3.85 million needed to start the building design until FY 2018.  However, the governor can add the needed funding in a supplemental budget or change the state's Capital Improvement Plan to allow the additional funding in 2016.

Additionally, Southern Maryland is the fastest growing region of our state yet it’s the only region not currently being served with a ‘bricks and mortar’ presence from the USM. 

If we want to continue this growth, we need sustained funding for this facility to keep the project on track.  More importantly, studies conclude that new fields of expertise and employment will become available with this job creating project. 

The USM Academic and Research Center will support local job opportunities for aircraft modification work, an unmanned aircraft test center at the airport, as well as support Naval activities currently underway at Patuxent River.

Economically, Patuxent River brings in over $40 billion dollars annually and the county only captures 10 percent of the revenue. The overwhelming majority goes to fund programs and projects throughout the rest of the country. A major university research presence is key to building a modern and local industrial base and bringing in new businesses for the county, our region and Patuxent River. This job creator has attracted the attention of several companies including, Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. (Manassas, VA) and UAV Solutions (Jessup, MD).   Aurora has already opened an office locally and also plans to bring two UAS programs here this year. 

We thank the county commissioners for recognizing the importance that the USM/ SMHEC Bldg. 3 represents for our local economy.  They have pledged $1 million of the $3.85 million needed for design funding contingent upon state funding by 2016. 

Governor Hogan has the sole authority to add in the remaining $2.8 million in design funding to keep the project on track. We ask the citizens of St. Mary’s County to take action and join us in our call for the realization of this opportunity, which will create much needed jobs for all.  Please sign the “Larry Hogan: Save the Funding for the SMHEC 3rd Building” petition at www.change.org/p/save-building-3. We encourage you to contact your state officials (Senator Waugh, Delegate O’Donnell, Delegate Morgan and Delegate Rey) to let them know that this issue is important to you, our county, and our region.

Andrea Bowman,
President
St. Mary’s County NAACP

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