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A model for growth

Published 9:04pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in North Suffolk has applauded a decision to develop the state’s first modeling and simulation plan.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the development of the plan Monday, saying it would seek to pinpoint modeling and simulation assets and capabilities, as well as “jumpstart collaboration and market development across Virginia.”

McDonnell has joined industry participants and observers in saying that developing the industry is an important means of diversifying the economy in the face of defense budget cuts.

“There is a need for the modeling and simulation industry to expand into new and previously untargeted growth areas,” he stated in a news release.

“There is a lot of data collection going on from some of the major stakeholders,” including his own organization, said Thomas Reese, VMASC’s director of business development.

Data collection has involved surveys and focus groups, he said, adding that two focus groups were held at VMASC Monday.

“It’s a very important step in the right direction. It helps inform us how to proceed … and how to make Virginia a hotbed for modeling and simulation,” he said.

“This is not the first study, but this is the first statewide study.”

The modeling and simulation industry will grow the economy in ways yet to be envisaged, Reese said, citing as an example how the iPhone has generated unanticipated opportunities.

Reese described VMASC, part of Old Dominion University, as a “major stakeholder in the growth of modeling and simulation,” as well as a major contributor and a major benefactor.

Through VMASC, ODU is the nation’s only university with undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs in modeling and simulation, he said.

Meanwhile, staff at Portsmouth-based modeling and simulation company SimIS support a VMASC program for the Department of Defense’s Joint and Coalition Warfighting command, also located in North Suffolk, said CEO Johnny Garcia.

Garcia, however, says the local industry has much potential beyond defense. For instance, he said, a modeling and simulation contract on the Midtown Tunnel expansion went to a Richmond firm when the expertise was unavailable in Hampton Roads.

He cited the maritime industry, manufacturing, health care and education and training as growth areas for modeling and simulation.

“I don’t think our goal in the commonwealth should be related directly to defense spending,” he said.

Reese agreed: “The potential is huge. There is a huge opportunity for the city of Suffolk.”

The strategic plan, which Garcia’s company is also helping develop, will be completed by Dec. 1, according to the release.

Folks interested in helping develop the plan or learning more about it can email karen.jackson@governor.virginia.gov or visit www.modsimconnected.com.

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