The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Vision discussed for Stafford tech park
BY KATIE THISDELL
Stafford County could be the next Silicon Valley.
The county could house a business incubator and lab space for businesses.
And it could become the start of a technology corridor throughout the area.
Those were a few of the goals shared during a summit on area telecommunications and businesses that was held yesterday at the University of Mary Washington’s Stafford campus. The planned research and technology park in North Stafford will combine those two themes.
“It’s come together so quickly that we are at a point now that we want to work on the vision, but we know that the vision part is going to be from the private sector,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson told the approximately 50 participants. Many were from area businesses.
The park, which may be named the “Stafford Technology and Research Park at Quantico Corporate Center,” is a joint effort between the county, the University of Mary Washington, George Mason University, Germanna Community College and ManTech International Corp.
Already, UMW has been offering two classes in space provided by Conscious Securities Inc. at the Quantico Corporate Center. Only one was planned to be offered, but demand was so high for the professional certification course that UMW opened up a second class.
The idea is for the park to offer training and education opportunities for defense and intelligence communities, many of which are centered around Marine Corps Base Quantico.
“We think this will provide a ripple effect in business expansion,” Stimpson said.
That idea was echoed in small group discussions at the summit.
Participants brainstormed about what the research park could provide for them and their companies.
“You look at something like the two guys in a garage concept like Google started, or Amazon started, that’s what we can do here,” said Kate Ehrle of Cask LLC. “We’ve got the potential here.”
Participants said taking training to workers—rather than making them travel for educational opportunities—keeps those people spending more time and money in their own communities.
Looking further into the future, several said the county would need to provide transportation and commercial infrastructure in the area to go along with its “live, work, play” idea.
Other discussion points included incentives programs and favorable tax rates for startups, as well as the type of lab facilities or certifications the park could offer.
Mary Garber, director of programs and administration for the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes to see the research park benefit the county’s middle and high school students. Businesses could offer mentorships and internships to get students interested in these fields.
This would go along with the chamber’s focus on STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—in classrooms.
“There are very talented people we could keep here,” said Ehrle. “There’s the misconception that the benefits, salary and the prestige increases by going 50 miles up the road.”
In January 2011, representatives from the park’s partners toured four similar research parks in Virginia.
“We’re really trying to do the same thing we’ve seen all across the country,” Supervisor Paul Milde said.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975