Members of the business community met at George Mason University’s (GMU) Science and Technology Campus in Manassas for a panel on innovation and economic development, hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.
During the panel, individuals from the academic, tech, and hospitality industry spoke about what they’re working on in Prince William County, and what the area needs to thrive.
The Villagio Group’s Director of Operations Meredith Arnest spoke about Farm Brew Live at Innovation Park, which will be located along Route 234 near the Manassas-Bristow line.
Arnest said that the “campus” will have several components to it, including 2 Silos Brewing Co., Farmers & Brewers restaurant in the formerly vacant Thomasson Barn, ‘The Yard’ outdoor music venue, the Great Hall event space, and BBQ & Beer Garden.
The site is currently under construction and is planned for completion by late June, early July. Once completed, the business will be hiring more than 200 people, according to Arnest.
GMU’s Vice President for Research Dr. Debra Crawford spoke about the university’s commitment to science and technology, and how the school has grown.
“We’re now in the highest rank of research universities in the country – a rather amazing achievement for a very young institution,” said Crawford.
Currently the university spends $100 million per year in research and development expenditures, predominately in the areas of biomed, computer science, and engineering, according to Crawford.
Crawford shared research completed on the Commonwealth which shows that Virginia will need to move away from being reliant on the federal government for jobs, that leveraging existing human capital in the region is important, and that plans need to be made to address future growth in the area.
During her remarks, Crawford stated that the future of GMU’s expansion will be in Prince William County.
“I am all in on Prince William County. I do think that’s where the major expansion will be,” said Crawford.
Data centers have been somewhat of a controversial topic in Prince William County, and COPT Data Center Solutions General Manager Jeff Ivey spoke about the importance of data centers in people’s everyday lives.
“The garage is on the Internet now, your doorbell’s on the Internet – everything’s on the Internet now. All of that data is somewhere in a box,” said Ivey.
Ivey spoke about how COPT has more than three million square feet of data center space in the United States, some of which is available at Innovation Park in Manassas. Ivey also shared that an average power bill for each data center facility ranges from $350,000 to $400,000 a month.
The final panelist was ATCC Federal Solutions Technical Director Dr. Ted Mullins, who shared insights on ATCC’s history as a non-profit that assists with biological materials and creating diagnostic tests for illnesses and diseases.
According to Mullins, ATCC has worked on several government contracts, including with NIH and the CDC.
“To help the CDC out, we shipped a bunch of [Zika virus] reagents to U.S. public health labs…during the [swine flu] pandemic, ATCC was the only source of the CDC, FDA approved kit that diagnosed H1N1,” said Mullins.
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