Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday told a gathering a Brookdale Community College that he supported a plan to transform Fort Monmouth into a private-sector technology center after the military communications facility is shut down in 2011, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

“Fort Monmouth is going to be the epicenter of where we put our efforts to make sure we have sustainable growth,” Corzine told a crowd of 500, the Press reports.

From the story:

Corzine said he was “personally interested” in the Tech Preserve plan, which calls for creating a partnership among a private company or companies, the state and the Army. It aims to absorb at least some of the fort’s 5,000 civilian employees while the post’s mission is transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland by 2011.

Tech Preserve was developed by the Patriots Alliance — a group of defense contractors who also spearheaded the ultimately failed effort to keep Fort Monmouth off the 2005 closure lists during the most recent Base Realignment and Closure round.

Once the transition to Aberdeen is complete, the Tech Preserve plan would move the fort’s employees into other government contract work, still based in New Jersey.

The partnership, advocates have said, would assure an uninterrupted continuation of the fort’s mission during the transition to Aberdeen — a condition of Fort Monmouth’s closure imposed by the federal commission that ordered it shuttered.

“I’m not saying it’s a panacea, or a silver bullet,” Corzine said. “But it’s an idea that certainly should be looked at, and we will be working on it.”

From today’s Star-Ledger on the speech:

Corzine said the state will pay for one-third of a $100,000 study that would make the case to poten tial investors and convince the Army it could get the same technical expertise for a lower price.

“It’s a complicated idea,” Corzine said. “But we have the talent and their proven record of success. I’m not saying it’s a panacea or a silver bullet, but we want to pursue it.”

[Former Fort Monmouth research chief Robert] Giordano said in a later interview that he was heartened by the governor’s enthusiasm for the project.

“I think it’s essential to put this in place long before 2011, before the work force disappears,” Giordano said.

In addition to the seed money for Tech Preserve, the state also secured a $600,000 U.S. Labor Department grant to provide retraining for Fort Monmouth employees who want it.

Corzine said the state also has pledged $1 million to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority, a nine-member panel of elected officials and guber natorial appointees. The authority is responsible for overseeing efforts to replace jobs lost when Fort Monmouth closes and to redevelop its land.

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