Business news from the Fredericksburg region.

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Military presence is a business plus for area

IT’S NOT breaking any ground to say that the military has a huge economic impact on the Fredericksburg region, but one aspect is a little more subtle.

The region’s three military bases—Fort A.P. Hill, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren and Marine Corps Base Quantico—employ thousands of people. Many more Fredericksburg-area residents commute to military installations in Northern Virginia.

Defense contractors follow the military agencies they support, leading to office parks popping up around the bases. In the past several years about 450,000 square feet of office space has been built at the Quantico Corporate Center in North Stafford, and every square foot has been leased.

Those are the more obvious effects that the military has on our local economy. But of late I’ve noticed another important role that the military plays in local economic development.

The military—as is also the case with the University of Mary Washington and other large area employers—brings many talented and motivated men and women to the Fredericksburg region who otherwise may never have even heard of the area. The region grows on many of them, and often they decide to stay after finishing their military service. Oftentimes they are still young when their military service ends, and they want second careers.

That has led many retired members of the military to start businesses locally. Many gravitate naturally to defense contracting, which has led to a large number of smaller contractors starting up in the Fredericksburg area.

But others go into careers completely unrelated to the military. I have come across many of these individuals in my coverage of late. Below are just a few examples. Undoubtedly I am not even scratching the surface.

A lifelong love of ice cream led Ed Wright to start the Abner Butterfield Ice Cream Co. last year from his North Stafford home after retiring from the U.S. Air Force following a 22-year career. The ice cream is now sold at several local stores and farmers markets.

Chris Frederick and Jeff Morin met in sixth grade while their fathers were stationed at Quantico. Both men entered the Marine Corps themselves, and when they got out returned to the region because of family ties. Together they now run the fast-growing For Anything company, which sells an array of custom-made products including commemorative coins, awards, shirts, signs and more. This year they moved into their own 8,000-square-foot property in the Four-Mile Fork area of Spotsylvania County.

Skills acquired during eight years of service with the Marine Corps are helping Rich Brown make popular local nightspots safer and more enjoyable. Brown runs Accolade Security Network, a company he started in 2010 while balancing a career teaching hand-to-hand combat and heavy weapons systems at The Basic School in Quantico.

Mel Middleton and Stacey Lampman came to Fredericksburg after living all over the country. Their husbands’ military and defense contracting jobs brought them here, and now they have started an interior design and architecture firm in downtown Fredericksburg called Spaces Design Studio that is increasingly taking on high-profile area projects.

Again, these are just a few examples that I have encountered of late in my local business coverage. Many more stories will probably follow on local businesses being started by former military members.

The Small Business Administration recently announced that it is helping to start a program at Quantico called Boots to Business that aims to help transitioning service members start companies—including ones completely unrelated to the military. This should only accelerate the trend.

Bill Freehling:540/374/5405