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Hundreds Turn Out for Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Hosted by the City of Newport News

By Joe Garvey

Despite threatening skies, nearly 400 people - from community members and educators to dignitaries and students - attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday for the new Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center (BCIOC) in the Southeast Community of Newport News. Old Dominion University is among the principal collaborators in the project.

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, ODU President John R. Broderick, officials from the city, Newport News Shipbuilding and other community leaders celebrated the opening of the community center that focuses on workforce development and STEM-education outreach in collaboration with the city and other partners.

"History is being made in Newport News today," Mayor McKinley L. Price said. "The city, Newport News Shipbuilding and Old Dominion University have joined together to bring this new state-of-the-art and one-of-a-kind facility to life.

"We are breaking down barriers to employment."

A result of significant investments within the community to create support resources for residents and students, the BCIOC, which occupies the first floor of the newly constructed, 105,000-square-foot Brooks Crossing office building, features two elements: The Brooks Crossing Opportunity Center (BCOC) and the STEM Digital Innovation and Fabrication Lab.

The STEM Lab, a partnership between the city, Newport News Shipbuilding, ODU and the Newport News Economic Development Authority, is the first of its kind in Virginia. Through hands-on and project-based learning, the innovation center will serve as a resource for students, parents and citizens interested in learning about digital technologies used in design and fabrication.

"Brooks Crossing Innovation Lab establishes a STEM hub for the Peninsula to build synergy with regional initiatives to prepare the next-generation workforce," President Broderick said. "Old Dominion through Brooks Crossing will also take the lead in establishing the Southeastern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Association. The Peninsula is home to several of these manufacturers, and Brooks Crossing represents an opportunity to establish more pipelines for workforce readiness."

The BCOC is a centralized hub for services related to career awareness, skill development, wealth building, training and employment, and support services. In addition to serving as a location for case management support and hosting interviews and job fairs, BCOC is a location where citizens can test for certificate programs and participate in career-readiness seminars, workshops and training programs.

Scott praised the potential of the center, saying: "It will attract some of the best and brightest talent from all over our nation to our local community." Warner called the collaboration "a model for the future."

Newport News Shipbuilding is the anchor tenant of the Brooks Crossing office building, which was completed this year. Approximately 600 employees work there.

Kaine said the proximity to those employees will greatly benefit students.

"They're going to understand the spectrum of what careers might be available to them, and they'll also start to get some of these lessons about what it is to be successful in the line of work," he said. "And all of this will enable young people to make choices that are better for themselves."

Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin echoed Kaine's sentiments.

"It gives us the opportunity to grow a new generation of computer engineers, data scientists, mathematicians and shipbuilding leaders from right here in our own backyard," she said.

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