December 1, 2010
3 minute read


The Five (5) Words that Determine Base Closure Success
Bruce Steadman

FMERA Executive Director

December 1, 2010

Five simple words; but they are critical to successful base redevelopment activities:

Survive closure; thrive after closure.

Surviving closure is the piece that occupies most communities.  There are many important issues associated with surviving closure that demand much attention: fire and police protection, utility maintenance, tax programs, affordable housing, street repair, school populations, environmental problems…… These are important issues and must be resolved. 

However, many base closure communities spend so much time and effort trying to find perfect answers to these difficult questions, with understandably exacting and detailed strategies to protect the interests of their constituents, that they lose sight of the ONE critical issue.  That is:

…how do we create an atmosphere whereby investors will invest and employers will employ, so that we can recoup the thousands of jobs lost and the millions of dollars lost?

There are many important issues, but this is the only critical issue.  Communities that transition with success through the complex and daunting tasks associated with base closure find a way to keep focused on the desired end result: thriving after closure. 

In the late 1800s, a large sailing ship left port destined for a city across the sea.  On board was a precious cargo and a hundred of the smartest and ablest seagoing men of their time.  Soon after departure, the crew members began debating several issues they deemed important: the size and shape of the sails, the color of the uniforms the officers would wear, what the galley would be serving for dinner, and which men would be assigned to the more comfortable berths.  As night approached, the debates turned to squabbles, and then to heated arguments, and then finally to fist-fights.  It took all of the officers, including the Captain and Helmsman, to maintain control as the fighting intensified.  With all of this happening, the ship floated adrift and into danger.  A storm approached and riled the waters.  Huge swells buffeted the ship, and wind-driven rain beat down in torrents.  Un-captained, the ship headed for the rocks protecting the coast of their destination.  The ship continued to flounder, and finally was overcome by a huge swell and began to take on water.  The crew hastened to make emergency maneuvers, but it was too late.  The ship lost its buoyancy, started to sink, and the wind pushed it toward the rocks.  One last swell swept over the ship, breaking it apart, and sending its precious cargo and able crew to the bottom of the sea forever, just a stone’s throw from the shore. 

Our precious cargo is the 1100 acres of land, buildings, and infrastructure that will be left behind by the U.S. Army.  To deliver this precious cargo successfully, we must keep our focus continually on our destination, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the discourse and disagreement about the important issues along the way.  We have to work together to create that atmosphere whereby investors will invest and employers will employ, so that we can THRIVE after closure.

As the Executive Director of FMERA, I pledge that the FMERA team will focus every day, every week, and every month on delivering our cargo, and helping all of our constituents to do the same.  We will work diligently on resolving the important issues as we go forth, but always we will keep our focus on the end result, on helping our community to thrive.

I am honored to have been given the opportunity to be part of this great undertaking, and I look forward to the challenges and successes that we will find.  I would ask each of our constituents to be guided by the five critical words, as will all of us at FMERA, and I welcome your ideas and comments as we move forward.  Thank you.