On Nov. 9, the U.S. Department of Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commissions' recommendations took effect after Congress allowed them to pass into law. While some communities prepare for the possible economic gains from construction of additional schools, houses, roads, and commercial and industrial development that may ensue from the oncoming population boom caused by the transfer of workers in military bases scheduled for realignment under the plan, the communities losing bases — 22 within the next six years — aren't as optimistic.

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, “Military Base Closure: Socioeconomic Impacts,” the closing of a military base may have a similar effect on a community as the closing of an industrial facility such as a steel mill or oil refinery. But with a concerted effort on the part of the community, closings can be made into opportunities. Bases closed under earlier BRAC recommendations have been successfully refurbished into manufacturing facilities, airports, and research laboratories.

According to the CRS report, once a base has been scheduled for closing, time is of the essence. The sooner economic redevelopment can begin after base closure, the better for the local community. However, projects of this magnitude, which may also involve military and government red tape, may take time. For example, Bayport Alameda, an 87-acre residential project, is located on the site of a former naval base in Alameda, Calif., an island adjacent to Oakland and just across the bay from San Francisco. The 2,000-acre Alameda Naval Air Station was decommissioned in 1997. It wasn't until 2000 that the city sold the land to carry out the development. “It just takes years and years,” says David Day, project manager for the San Ramon, Calif.-based Warmington Group of Northern California, contractor for the residential development. “With this project, it was owned by the Navy, then the city took title to the land in phases. Finally, we, as an LLC corporation, take down the land from the city. We start the infrastructure early with a right-of-entry agreement, and then as we complete it, we purchase land from the city.”

According to Day, most bases are located within urban infield areas. “It's not like going out in the outskirts of urban areas where you're digging in cow pastures,” he says. “We do find old pipes in the ground, and we have to deal with that. It's urban brownfield.”

However, once all the buildings were removed and the environmental cleanup finished, Bayport was just like any other project. Warmington bid out the electrical work to subcontractors that put the conduit in the ground and worked with Alameda's own power company, Alameda Power & Telecom, to pull the cable.

Day says that if electrical contractors really want to be a part of the base redevelopment projects, they should pay attention to their city government's notices. He advises reading the daily business journal to find requests for competitive bids from the city. Day also recommends following city resolutions to find out which developers or group of developers are forging development agreements and getting approved by the city council. “If you really want to do that kind of work, whatever city the base is in, watch the city council meetings to see which builders are doing agreements with the developers. And then market yourself to them.”