Sen. Chris Van Hollen met with local businesses, firefighters, military and education leaders Friday during a visit to Charles County to discuss investing in Southern Maryland’s economy, provide necessary funding to education and job training programs, support the military installations across the state as well as ensure that first responders have the tools necessary to keep communities safe.
Van Hollen’s first stop included a visit to Indian Head where he and other local leaders visited the Clarity Coffee House, a woman-, minority- and veteran-owned business that serves locally roasted coffee from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. He discussed efforts to support small businesses and invest in the Minority Business Development Agency, for which Van Hollen (D-Md.) helped secure $40 million in fiscal year 2019 through his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to a press release from Van Hollen’s office.
“Getting to talk to Senator Van Hollen about what he foresees on a federal level and in the future, and how that may impact small municipalities like Indian Head, was really good,” Indian Head Mayor Brandon Paulin, who was one of the local leaders that joined Van Hollen for several stops, told APG Media of Chesapeake during a follow-up interview Monday. “We talked a lot about economic development as kind of revitalizing Indian Head and different things we’d like to see come into town in the future.”
“We also talked about municipal funding. Recently, for the boardwalk [project along the Potomac River], we utilized transportation alternatives program funding which is federal level funding that’s passed down to the state, and then municipalities apply for it,” Paulin added. “For Indian Head, just stressing the importance of programs, and really leveraging these grant opportunities and projects to make sure that we revitalize, is how we’re starting to turn the corner. It’s always great to have more advocates and more voices up in [Washington,] D.C.”
Following a briefing at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Van Hollen stopped by the College of Southern Maryland’s Velocity Center, a program that is designed to be a space for innovation and collaboration for the college, Navy base and community at large.
“The CSM Velocity Center and our partnership with the Navy is critical to retain and develop the regional workforce,” CSM President Maureen Murphy said, “and we greatly value Senator Van Hollen’s ongoing support.”
Van Hollen worked to secure $1 million in funding for the Office of Naval Research in 2018, the press release noted, and the Velocity Center was awarded a $576,000 grant as part of that program for Rapid Agile Innovative Deployment research.
“That’s a vital defense installation and is also vital to the success of the economy. It is now the largest employer in Charles County,” Van Hollen said, speaking of the Navy base. “What we need to do is make sure that the investments [within military gates] has a broader, spillover benefit to the larger community — that’s what the Velocity Center is designed to do. … The takeaway from Indian Head today was that there’s a growing recognition that we need to be on the cutting edge of what they call ‘energetics’ [which includes] building ordinance propellants. That’s going to be important to our future security requirements and priorities.”
The third visit on Friday included a tour of the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department, which is the largest and fastest growing volunteer fire and rescue company in Charles County, where Van Hollen met with firefighters from across the county. In addition to pushing for $700 million nationally for fire grants, Van Hollen helped secure $2 million to implement the National Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018 to allow for better research and understanding of the link between fire fighting and cancer, the press release also noted.
“There are two sorts of federal grants,” Van Hollen said. “One is fire grants, which is for equipment, and the other one is called safer grants that are used to recruit new volunteers. We’re very focused on helping people in the grant writing process so they can access more of these federal funds and do their jobs. We also talked about the fact that Congress just recently passed the final legislation to support the firefighters that we lost as a country in 9/11.”
During a discussion with chamber members, Van Hollen spoke about issues of importance to local businesses including the need to invest in infrastructure, the Maryland Airport in Indian Head and regional economic development. Since 2007, the airport has received more than $17 million in federal funding for runway construction. In addition to pushing for investments to rebuild roads and schools while boosting the economy, Van Hollen helped secure $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program which could fund projects at the Maryland Airport.
Van Hollen also highlighted a new proposal to tackle the issue of long-term unemployment and provide good paying jobs for Marylanders.
“First is the issue of modernizing our infrastructure and trying to address congestion issues because as the county is growing, it’s brought lots of economic benefits and also brought challenges,” Van Hollen said.