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DC Region's Next Innovation Hub?

Washington DC Tech

We’re taking a short break from our Power Women in DC Tech series to share one of Northern Virginia’s best kept secrets: With an eye on gaming, Prince William County hopes to rival Loudoun County in attracting tech companies that need network power and an educated workforce. That's why we're excited to hold our second annual Future of Prince William County event next Tuesday in Manassas.

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The Simulation and Gaming Institute opened on GMU's Prince William campus last March. Already, two of the five companies in the incubator are ready to graduate, says director Scott Martin. The goal is to add another seven to 10 companies in the next year. Much of the work is focused on using games for education, including Professions Quest’s 3-D multi-player team-based learning system for medical training. Stilwell Technologies’ learning system teaches robots how to collaborate. (All five companies will be demo’ing at the event next Tuesday.)

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Scott says GMU’s computer game design degree program has 600 students, all required to do internships in the field. Two of the companies in the incubator were founded by GMU grads, including Little Arms Studios (above). The company developed a training solution for firefighters that uses an algorithm to simulate a burning fire through a game. It’s being used by Fairfax Fire and Rescue, and the company will go on a nationwide tour to find more departments. Once SGI companies reach 15 employees, they graduate from the program and can move into Prince William’s Innovation Park.

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Simulation and gaming is just one piece of Prince William County’s innovation attack. It’s also announcing this month that management and tech consulting firm Quality Business Engineering invested $1.2M in its new HQ at a former high school in Gainesville. The company's 100 employees consult federal agencies and the defense community on IT solutions. (It's added over 30 positions since early 2013.) The company will preserve the historical façade of PACE West school and many of the social and cultural elements inside the building. (Can you have water cooler conversations at a water fountain?)

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Prince William recently surpassed 2M SF of data center space, and county economic development chief Jeff Kaczmarek (above), tells us companies are coming for the robust power and fiber paired with the ability to be more secluded. (Everyone just wants Thoreau's Walden... with Wi-Fi.) These 2 million square feet represent 20 data center projects in the last few years that include a mix of enterprise, colocation, and federal facilities—$3.5B worth of investment and 653 new jobs, Jeff says. We're told his team has even more data center projects in the works. Come on out next Tuesday and hear more.