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Turning Innovation Into Enterprise


Fairmont Chosen For $553 Million NOAA Program

By: Jim Estep, CEO, WV High Technology Foundation

In 2010, the High Technology Foundation was competitively awarded a contract to build the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Security Computing Center (ESCC) at the I-79 Technology Park.  Seven years later, the NOAA ESCC is considered one of the most advanced high-performance computing centers in the country housing multiple supercomputers.  This is a great point of pride for the people of West Virginia but there is more to it than just bragging rights.

Winning the contract and establishing this critical NOAA program at the I-79 Technology Park was an example of the High Technology Foundation’s strategy for establishing greater economic diversity in the region and state.  As demonstrated with the recent release of NOAA’s pending procurement for a $553 million contract to support the ESCC and other NOAA systems, there is lucrative opportunities for companies who have the potential to provide technical support.  To read more about this contract, click here.

This sizeable opportunity gets the attention of many companies and provides a business case for why they should set up shop in the region surrounding the NOAA ESCC operation – north central West Virginia.  The establishment of a business case for technology companies, or as they are often referred to as “knowledge sector” companies, which provide a basis for their being in West Virginia, is critically important to the state’s future economic health.

The knowledge sector is the fastest growing economic sector in the United States.  Two out of every three jobs over the next ten years is expected to be in this sector.  The number one factor influencing a region or state’s participation in the knowledge sector is an educated workforce.  West Virginia, unfortunately, has the worst workforce education rating in the country.  What this means is that we must create a business case in the state for the knowledge sector that is strong enough to overcome our significant workforce demographic weakness.

The recruitment of additional federal programs, such as NOAA’s ESCC, is the best approach for overcoming the state’s challenges and propelling us into a stronger economic position.  The High Technology Foundation refers to this as the “federal anchor model.”  The NOAA ESCC is but one of the “federal anchors” recruited by the High Technology Foundation over the last seven years.  The I-79 Technology Park has become the home of NOAA’s top two satellite ground stations and its cybersecurity operations center.

All of these activities come with high dollar contracting opportunities that exponentially add strength to a knowledge sector business case.  The High Technology Foundation focus over the next few years will be on infrastructure development in Phase III of the I-79 Technology Park to make room for more federal anchors.  Discussions are already underway with multiple agencies about the prospect for locating to the park.