Monday, February 14, 2011

WVA Steps Up Recruiting Efforts

Maryland and Virginia are always competing with each other for big-name technology companies to locate to their states.

Now, West Virginia may be jumping into the fray.

A West Virginia economic development organization has hired CSC, a Falls Church, Va.-based IT solutions and services firm, to bring more biometrics companies to the state. And the organization recently devised a plan to increase its bioscience industry.

CSC, which usually gets hired to provide tech solutions and services to commercial and government customers, will spend the next 18 months developing a biometrics and identity program for TechConnectWV, a not-for-profit group that’s trying to bring more technology companies to West Virginia.

The program, which is being run by CSC’s Identity Labs in Fairmont, W. Va., is expected to advance the state’s identity management industry and spur job growth, intellectual property development and sustainable business.

Much of the work will be done with the newly formed Biometrics Innovation Institute Program, which is also working to accelerate the biometrics industry in West Virginia. As part of this contract, CSC will help put together a grants program to help give the industry a jumpstart.

TechConnectWV will also work on growing the bioscience industry in West Virginia. The organization’s plan is to continue growing academic-based research, advance biotech clusters by strengthening bonds between research universities and industry, improve the biotech workforce and enhance the infrastructure to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Washington-area economic development leaders aren't too worried just yet.

Virginia officials, in fact, say they welcome the competition from its westward neighbor. The Virginia Biotechnology Organization even helped launch the Bioscience Association of West Virginia in 2009.

"A growing and vibrant life science industry in the Mountaineer State is beneficial to her neighbors as it means more companies, more research dollars and a wider pool of talented workers here in the Mid-Atlantic region," said Mark Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association.

When it comes to competing with big biotech hubs around the country, three states are better than one, according to Herzog.

"This is critical if Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia hope to compete with the larger clusters in Boston and San Francisco," he said.

West Virginia is ripe for a biometrics industry with the presence of several government biometrics programs, including the Defense Department’s Biometrics Task Force/Biometrics Fusion Center, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division and the National Science Foundation’s Center for Identification Technology Research.

West Virginia's biotech industry grew 23.2 percent between 2001 and 2008, with 160 bioscience companies calling West Virginia home, according to figures from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Virginia, however, had 981 bioscience companies, growing 55.2 percent between 2001 and 2008, according to BIO.

Maryland’s industry grew 43.6 percent with 1,271 companies.

CSC says its clout in the industry and global reach could help immensely.

"Drawing on our broad range of identity experience with public and private sector clients worldwide and our unique understanding of the West Virginia biometrics community, CSC is ideally suited to provide the insight and expertise needed to successfully implement this program," said Aaron Fuller, president of CSC’s North American Public Sector Enforcement, Security and Intelligence Group.

The company did not reveal how much TechConnectWV is paying for its work on this endeavor. CSC has had a West Virginia presence for nearly seven years.

The company relocated its Identity Labs from Camp Hill, Penn., to West Virginia in 2008 to be closer to the federal government’s presence in the I-79 High Technology Corridor.

By Tania Anderson

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