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MIDDLETOWN, NJ-Speaking publicly for the first time on what will happen after Fort Monmouth closes in 2011, Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday endorsed a plan called Tech Preserve. That plan, generated by a group called Patriots Alliance, made up of locally based defense contractors, would find ways to convert some of the existing 5,000 federal civilian jobs on the post to private sector positions.

“Fort Monmouth will be the epicenter of where we will put our efforts of making sure we have sustainable growth in New Jersey,” Corzine told some 500 attendees of a special meeting on the campus of Brookdale Community College here. “I have confidence that this great installation can be repositioned. It’s been the centerpiece of our defense establishment since before World War II.”

The closure of Fort Monmouth, as reported by GlobeSt.com, is part of the latest round of such closures orchestrated by BRAC. The base’s functions–primarily satellite communications, technology and intelligence gathering–are being transferred to Aberdeen, MD. Fort Monmouth’s facilities sprawl over some 1,100 acres in Eatontown, Tinton Falls and Oceanport.

In his remarks, Corzine endorsed the basis of Tech Preserve, specifically, a proposal by former Fort Monmouth head of research Robert Giordano that would create a private company that would, in turn, hire many of the base’s current employees. The plan envisions the new private company continuing to provide the base’s functions until final closure, and subsequently seeking other government contracts. Surveys have indicated that only about 20% of the base’s existing civilian employees are interested in relocating to Maryland after the base closes.

“It’s a complicated idea,” Corzine said, noting that it could become the focal point of a larger tech corridor development in the Monmouth County region. “But I feel that we have the talent and proven record of success here. I’m not saying that it’s a panacea or ‘silver bullet,’ but we want to pursue the idea.”

The larger scope of redeveloping Fort Monmouth’s sprawling acreage is in the hands of the year-old Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority, a 10-member panel headed by former private sector developer Frank Cosentino. In its year of existence, the group has staffed up, obtained $1 million in funding from the state and other seed money, and is currently sifting through land requests from nonprofit and government groups looking for free or low-cost property within the fort.

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