Budget may fund virtual training

Governor proposes $27 million infusion for high-tech industry

Gov. Mark R. Warner announced yesterday that his upcoming budget proposal will include $27 million to help expand the modeling and simulation industry that has sprung up in northern Suffolk and other parts of Hampton Roads.

In a prepared statement, the governor said modeling and simulation "has the potential to dramatically transform this region's economy by attracting more high-tech, high-wage jobs."

Warner's office said the money — part of a $550 million proposal for research and development at state colleges and universities that the governor already has announced — would be used to recruit and hire additional faculty and staff for research and training programs in modeling and simulation at Old Dominion University, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Tidewater Community College.

Regional planners estimate about 4,000 people in Hampton Roads work in the modeling and simulation industry, which offers virtual training to military officers, hospital workers and emergency service workers. Computer models can simulate everything from battles to surgeries to rioting crowds or terrorist attacks.

Much of the local modeling and simulation industry has grown up around the U.S. Joint Forces Command in northern Suffolk, near the southern terminus of the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. The Joint Forces Command, whose mission is to train branches of the armed forces to fight together, has attracted a cluster of defense contractors to the area and helped fuel rapid growth in Suffolk.

The governor made his remarks during a visit to ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Tidewater Community College's campus in Portsmouth. Warner also announced the state had agreed to sell 57 acres at the community college to the city of Suffolk, which will try to attract private modeling and simulation business to the area.

Warner is traveling the state to call attention to parts of his budget package, which he will present to the General Assembly on Friday.

ODU also announced yesterday an agreement with Verizon Virginia to bring to Hampton Roads LambdaRail, a high-speed connection that enables supercomputers in different locations to work together. ODU officials said the LambdaRail eventually will connect the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center; the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg; the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News; NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton; and the Joint Forces Command to organizations across the country.