Virginia's CIT Under Review -- Again

A commission appointed by Gov. George Allen has recommended changes to the tech booster -- including possible dissolution

t's the second time around for Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology.

This time, the recommendation is that the Herndon, Va.-based organization undergo an exhaustive study in order to continue receiving state funds. CIT went through a similar study two years ago --but that was under then-Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder.

This one is under Republican Gov. George Allen. In a draft report Oct. 6 from the Blue Ribbon Strike Force, 350-odd recommendations were presented. Number 41 in the report asked for "an independent study... to examine the advisability of continued state funding for CIT." The report prompted at least one Netplex newspaper (and a subsequent national wire service) to suggest that Allen himself was seeking to have the center shut down.

Not so, insists Barbara Cooper, CIT's spokeswoman.

On the contrary, Allen has voiced his support, saying the CIT should have a larger role in the state's economic policy, Cooper said. The governor also just appointed six new members to the CIT Board of Directors.

But the CIT also just received the smallest amount of money from the state it has ever gotten in its 10 years -- $8 million.

And although it emerged from the Wilder study still intact, it has yet to implement any of the recommendations including more ties to the business community, a sharpened sense of mission and a results-oriented accounting system. The Strike Force report re-emphasized that the CIT should create more ties with business.

"We deserve an opportunity to prove ourselves," said Robert Templin, the newly appointed CIT president.

Ed Bersoff agrees. The former president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council said another review would be "disruptive and ill-conceived."

The report, which will go through public hearings before it's given to Allen, also questioned why CIT's budget remains within the Department of Education; it should move to the Secretary of Commerce and Trade.

The center has sponsored more than 800 research-and-development projects. CIT raises, through private investments, about $3 to every dollar the state supplies.

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