Virginia tech incubator finds niche in cybertechnology boom

Virginia tech incubator finds niche in cybertechnology boom

Center for Innovative Technology spearheads statewide effort to create strategy fostering IT growth

By Trudy Walsh,br>
GCN Staff

Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology took more than a decade to find itself. But thanks to the Internet and some departmental realignment, CIT is ready to grow.

Founded in 1984 during Gov. Charles Robb's term, the state-funded technology incubator has developed under the direction of three departments.

First, CIT was under the supervision of Virginia's education secretary. Its focus was university research, said Robert Schwartz, CIT's director of intellectual resources. Then CIT moved under the purview of the trade and commerce secretary. There the focus shifted to economic measures, such as how many new companies started up in the state each year.

Then along came the Internet, and Northern Virginia burst onto the scene as 'the Internet capital of the world,' said CIT's president and Virginia technology secretary Donald W. Upson. Now that CIT is under the stewardship of the state's Technology Department, it can really achieve its potential, Upson said.

Nearly half of the Internet's backbone is in Virginia.

Internet companies headquartered in the northern Virginia area include America Online Inc. in Dulles; Network Solutions Inc., the company that registers all .com, .net and .org domain names, in Herndon; and CyberCash Inc. in Reston. Even Vinton Cerf, one of the inventors of the Internet, lives in northern Virginia.

No holds barred

'It's an exciting time, and Virginia is the eye of the storm for network communications,' Upson said. 'The rules aren't written yet, but they will be, over the next five years.'

To help establish guidelines for this turning point in Virginia's economy, CIT helped organize a summit of 300 of Virginia's leaders in business, education and government. Out of this summit came a draft, A Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Growth, which identifies four areas that Virginia must concentrate on to catapult the state into the next century:

• Developing and expanding Virginia's work force

• Creating the infrastructure necessary to compete in an economy based on information

• Nurturing the entrepreneurial environment

• Accelerating the deployment of manufacturing and IT.

Since 1994, the Center for Regional Analysis at the Institute of Public Policy of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., has performed economic impact and customer assessment studies on CIT. Every year since 1994, CIT has exceeded its goals in creating new jobs and companies, and promoting new revenue, which CIT officials call competitiveness.

Last year, CIT customer companies reported that 10,609 jobs were added to the economy or retained as a result of help from CIT. CIT's stated target was only 2,500 jobs. A total of 132 companies either started up or moved to Virginia last year as a result of CIT's programs, 57 more than CIT's target of 75 companies.

Last year new revenue increased by $1.9 billion through CIT's assistance, compared to CIT's goal of $85 million.

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