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President's: Corner: January 2018

Every year Old Dominion University graduates thousands of students well-prepared to enhance the workforce. But we believe our responsibility to strengthen the economy of Hampton Roads and Virginia goes far beyond that.

I'm happy to report that the commonwealth's top political and business leaders recently approved and funded two initiatives advanced by Old Dominion to bring high-paying, high-tech jobs to our region. They involve cybersecurity and digital shipbuilding.

The projects were endorsed last month by the Board of Directors of GO Virginia, also known as Growth and Opportunity for Virginia, a program launched in 2016 to propel job growth across the commonwealth. The board includes officers of Gov. Terry McAuliffe's cabinet, members of the General Assembly and top business executives.

Each of the projects coordinated by Old Dominion will receive more than $640,000 in state funding in each of the next two years. That's more money than was allocated to any of the three other successful proposals.

In one of our projects, Old Dominion will create the Hampton Roads Cyber Collaboration Laboratory, or HRCyber Co-Lab, anchored at our Tri-Cities Center in Portsmouth and our Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk. We envision designing an "innovation district" that will span disciplines from data analytics to cybersecurity to modeling and simulation. The lab also will pursue applications for the use of unmanned waterborne vehicles.

Our goals include filling high-tech openings with skilled workers, improving protection against cyber attacks and expediting the commercialization of promising intellectual property.

Old Dominion's other project, the Digital Shipbuilding Workforce Program, will provide programs and a state-of-the-art laboratory to train workers for the new digital manufacturing environment in the shipbuilding industry. We anticipate filling 1,700 jobs per year with an average salary of $74,000.

Both projects maximize the potential of high-growth, high-wage industries in the region. They share another important attribute, which is at the core of Old Dominion's philosophy: the insistence on collaboration. Simply put, partnering provides the strongest results. The digital shipbuilding program, for instance, represents a joint effort including Old Dominion, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Siemens, the Virginia Ship Repair Association and Thomas Nelson Community College. The cyber program brings together educators, industry practitioners, federal labs and investors.

Our efforts also dovetail with Gov.-elect Ralph Northam's vision of higher education powering Virginia's economy forward, with an emphasis on innovation, research and commercialization.

Old Dominion is investigating other initiatives to reinvigorate the economy, from port logistics to health data analytics. Working together, we can make the commonwealth an even more attractive destination for businesses, wage earners and students.

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