Central Virginia and Its High-Tech Future
Change is a key characteristic of an economy, whether it’s global, national, state or local.
The economy of Central Virginia, like the American economy, has undergone a series of changes and upheavals over the past decades. Once based upon tobacco and manufacturing supported by unskilled labor, the local economy took a high-tech turn beginning in the late 1950s with the arrival of such firms as General Electric and Babcock & Wilcox.
Our high-tech economy is continuing to grow and evolve, and in doing so, Central Virginia is becoming an engineering hub of Virginia.
B&W and Areva are two of the global leaders in the nuclear services industry. Areva’s North American headquarters are in the Hill City; B&W has been one of Lynchburg’s greatest corporate citizens since opening shop in the 1950s.
And the impact of two developing stories in the news will only add to the region’s strength.
First is Liberty University’s announcement late last week that it will be building an engineering school campus and research park on Campus East.
Liberty’s engineering school opened just two years ago and already has close to 450 students enrolled. It’s one of the fastest growing programs at the university and one of the biggest attractions for progressive students.
Though it’s still early in the planning stages, the importance of such a development to the region is hard to underestimate.
Nationally, there is a growing demand for engineers, in all fields. The state’s top university engineering programs at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, along with Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University, have already ramped up their programs to accommodate the demand. They’ve also partnered with community colleges across the commonwealth, including Central Virginia Community College, to offer distance learning degree opportunities.
For a full-fledged engineering school and an accompanying research park to call Central Virginia home would be a major economic boon.
The second major development is the creation of the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research, soon to break ground on its main complex in Bedford County.
The CAER is the next link in the chain, utilizing the pool of highly trained, highly educated engineering talent in the region. It will serve as a conduit between corporations and major research institutions in the state to Central Virginia.
The spinoffs from Liberty’s new engineering school and its proposed research park and the CAER into the manufacturing and industrial sectors of the local and state economies are truly limitless.
Though the economic road is more than a little bumpy right now, the future, thanks to these and other initiatives, is beyond bright.
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