Editorial: The Devens formula — Closed Army post in Massachusetts shows what’s possible at McClellan
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Aug 19, 2013 | 1945 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A former U.S. Army post in Massachusetts and our very own McClellan bear more than a passing resemblance to each other.

Both were opened during World War I.

Both were named for Civil War-era Union generals.

The surrounding communities of both grew to depend economically on the U.S. Army.

Both fell victim to the post-Cold War base-closing process — Devens in 1995 and McClellan in 1999.

Both had to clean up the mess left by the Army, though to be fair, the potential for unexploded ordnance has made McClellan’s cleanup more challenging.

Here, though, the two paths begin to diverge.

Devens is home to more than 3,500 good-paying jobs; more than 7-in-10 are in the private sector. The average wage in Devens is estimated to be $69,210, which is higher than the state average in Massachusetts.

The former fort contributes $1.44 billion to the state economy.

Employers at Devens include Bristol-Myers Squibb, which employs 400 workers and is in the process of adding 300 jobs.

This isn’t to suggest that Devens is home to only large technology-based companies. Devens enjoys a diverse set of tenants, from the big to small. For instance, MegaWave, a specialized electronics manufacturer that’s called Devens home for more than five years, employs seven people. As Sunday’s article in The Star pointed out, other companies doing business include “a newspaper production hub, a central baking facility for Dunkin’ Donuts, a warehouse that uses robots to fulfill e-commerce orders, various high-tech life science and biotech operations, a wind-turbine manufacturer, defense contractors and a recycling plant.”

Representatives of companies in Devens told The Star they were drawn to the area because of rich infrastructure and a quick-time permitting process than get a facility up and running in two-and-a-half months or less.

It’s obvious this place is open for business, which is in turn making a difference on a local economy that once depended on the U.S. Army for much of its prosperity.

“These communities have taken a significant hit from the base closure,” Mike Brewer, a key player in the redevelopment and marketing of Devens, told The Star. “Our mission has been to replace jobs, attract businesses.”

More than 15 years into the process, Devens has taken big strides toward accomplishing that mission.

We salute Devens for its successes. Its story is worthy of an ongoing examination in hopes we can export its lessons to McClellan.
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