Hampton Roads Seeks Netplex Niche

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Hampton Roads Seeks Netplex Niche

By Tania Anderson
Staff Writer

A stirring of sorts is taking place in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Regional economic developers are in the process of creating their own niche in the Netplex, and funding for a new technology transfer center may be their ticket to ride.

The state of Virginia has provided $500,000 for a Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University, Suffolk, Va., which will be open for business by June.

Funding for the 6,500-square-foot facility was added to Old Dominion University's budget by the Virginia General Assembly in February.

At the center, simulation tactics developed by the U.S. military under a cooperative effort with industry and academia will be applied to solve commercial problems such as whether a manufacturing company should build another plant.

The center's first project will work with Norfolk Southern, one of the largest railroad companies in the country, and the Virginia Port Authority, which operates port terminals in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News.

The port terminals in Norfolk are going through a $400 million expansion, and VMASC will simulate a model of the completed port so planners can test traffic patterns in the newly renovated port. The model will use technology that military officials use to simulate warfare strategies.

Organizers of VMASC expect to attract large defense contractors, university researchers and federal laboratory researchers as users of the center.

Tom Mastaglio, executive director of VMASC, is putting together a consortium of experts in academia, business and government to serve as partners on the center's projects. Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md., has already committed to participate in the consortium, he said. The simulation technology used by the center is being developed by the U.S. Defense Department's Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation Center, also in Suffolk, Va.

Officials for the city of Suffolk expect the center to create new jobs and capital. Thomas O'Grady, the director of economic development for the city, said he expects companies to take advantage of the center through remote access at first and eventually move to the area to be closer to the facility.

The center, an idea conceived by ODU and officials at the military's local training and simulation center, serves as a major regional development boon for the Hampton Roads region. Traditionally known as a manufacturing center, the region is home to the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet, NASA's Langley Center and the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Physics Laboratory.

Barry Duvall, president of the Hampton Roads Partnership, the area's economic development organization, and mayor of Newport News, Va., said the region's goal is to create a mecca of aeronautics and material science companies.

"We hope there will be spin-off opportunities for companies to locate to Hampton Roads," said Duvall, who is also launching a technology council for the region this month.

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