City gets good tech report

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, December 2, 2010

More good news for the city’s quest to mitigate the effects of a proposed closure of a military establishment here came Wednesday.

Kevin Hughes, the city’s director of economic development, gave a good report at the City Council meeting of a modeling and simulation industry conference he attended earlier this week.

“There are companies out there looking to expand,” Hughes said. “I left that show this week feeling very good.”

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Hughes’ attendance at the conference ties in with the city’s efforts to allay the possible ramifications of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which maintains a massive facility in North Suffolk. Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed closure of the facility in August, ostensibly as a cost-saving strategy.

The conference Hughes attended, known as I/ITSEC, is put on by the National Training and Simulation Association and was held this year in Orlando, Fla.

Hughes said that besides Canada, Hampton Roads cities were the only government entities exhibiting at the conference.

“We know we have a lot to offer, and Kevin’s out there highlighting it,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said.

Hughes’ good news follows on the heels of what participants called a “productive” meeting between Gates and Virginia’s legislative delegation in Washington last week.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Randy Forbes and others said Gates was receptive to their demands for a seat at the table and agreed to consider a number of options, including retaining some of JFCOM’s functions in Hampton Roads and relocating other commands to the area.

McDonnell added that Gates acknowledged there are “absolutely critical and essential functions of JFCOM that cannot be moved into the Pentagon or elsewhere,” such as modeling and simulation and the joint warfighting center.

Gates also agreed to consider some sort of compensation to the area if jobs are lost. JFCOM directly employs roughly 3,900 among all its locations, including those in Norfolk and elsewhere.

In addition to the report on his conference, Hughes noted that several technology companies have recently announced their intent to relocate to Suffolk, including I Information Technologies Inc., which is expected to bring more than 200 jobs within the next two years.