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Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Times Staff Writer
Huntsville Times

MDA worker who relocated here touts higher quality of life

ARLINGTON, Va. - For half the money, Pat Craver got twice the house and a big chunk
of her life back.

In July, the human resources liaison for the Missile Defense Agency left her longtime
home in Maryland to work at Redstone Arsenal, and she said it's the smartest career
move she's made.

That's good for her, and it's good for the Tennessee Valley delegation visiting Arlington
this week because Craver shared her story with several hundred Department of Defense
employees and contractors considering a move to Redstone.

"Financially, it's been great, but I'm talking about more than money," Craver told the
federal workers. "I'm talking about life. What was a commute of an hour to an hour and a
half to and from work now takes me 18 minutes."

Craver, who now lives in Ardmore, knew that housing and commute times would be big
sells at the town hall meetings the Tennessee Valley BRAC Committee is hosting this
week, but she didn't how many defense workers would show up to hear the message:
"You just never know."

The two sessions on Tuesday attracted 400 defense employees and contractors, which is
more than she predicted would show up at the entire two-day event. Not only did they
show up, they seemed to like what they heard.

"I haven't heard one negative thing," said Craver, who helped emcee the presentations,
adding that if the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, employees had less-than-positive
comments, they wouldn't hesitate to share them.

"The presentations were professional and to the point. There was no fluff, and that's good
because MDA people have no patience for fluff."

She's certain that some of the federal workers who were adamantly opposed to following
their jobs to Alabama are now considering it.
Over the next five years, 2,200 MDA jobs are slated to come to Redstone as part of the
Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, recommendations last fall.

Chris Taylor, MDA spokesman in Washington, said a flurry of e-mails went out Tuesday
morning after the first town hall session at the Sheraton National in Arlington. He said he
heard several MDA workers as they left the morning session saying they were going back
to the office to tell their co-workers to come to the afternoon session or today's session.

Here are some of the statistics shared with the workers:

The cost of living in the Washington, D.C., area is 146 percent of the national average;
the cost of living in the Tennessee Valley is 92 percent of the national average.

While the average number of federal workers who follow their jobs after a BRAC move
is 30 percent, 60 percent of St. Louis employees followed their jobs to Redstone in the
mid- to late 1990s, the highest in BRAC history.

Rent for a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the D.C. area averages $1,680; the same
apartment in the Tennessee Valley averages $615.

A round of golf on a top-notch golf course in this area is $40.

After the town hall meetings, defense workers viewed displays of cities and school
districts. About four dozen people from North Alabama and southern Tennessee manned
the various displays, answering questions about details such as day care costs, the legal
driving age and duck hunting.

Free hotel stays were given away as door prizes to encourage potential residents to check
out the possibilities in person.

"I've never seen such a thorough, professional outreach as this meeting has been," Taylor
said. "And the people are genuinely nice people who seem to care about everyone
understanding what the Huntsville area has to offer.

"The sincerity is oozing in this room. I think that's going to matter."