JFCOM, work force development topics at economic summit

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

One-half to two-thirds of the functions performed by the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Suffolk will survive an impending closure, a former Navy Admiral predicted during a statewide business meeting Thursday.

Craig Quigley, now executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance and a former employee of JFCOM, discussed its status during an economic summit in Williamsburg sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Following recent meetings in November with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Quigley said political leaders went away heartened by Gates’ appreciation of some of the command’s unique functions, such as modeling and simulation. “The secretary said that modeling and simulation was a crown jewel, and he would be mindful to not damage that credibility,” Quigley told a packed room of conference goers.

Last August, when Gates first called for the command’s closure as a part of defense cuts, he ignited a political firestorm since the command employs 6,000 people (including 3,900 workers in Hampton Roads) and contributes $730 million to region’s economy.

Other factors working in the command’s favor: Old Dominion University has become a leader in modeling and simulation, offering up to a doctorate’s degree in the field.  “It is the way of the future in that you can model traffic, climate change, weather, the movement of military forces,” Quigley said. He noted that the Department of Defense invested $270 million recently in the Suffolk campus and that it would have to pay a $61 million dollar penalty if it breaks its lease for the facility before 2013. 

“I’m pretty sure the core functions will stay right here, because it makes sense to do so. … Final decisions should be made around the first or mid part of January,” Quigley said.

During another panel, executives from Northrop Grumman Corp. and Rolls-Royce North America Inc. talked about why their companies recently located to Virginia and what it would take to keep the state competitive as a business location.

For defense contractor Northrop Grumman, the ability to buy a large, available office building 30 minutes from the Pentagon — one of its biggest customers — was a key factor in its decision to relocate its corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to Falls Church next summer. The company looked at a total of 57 buildings in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., said Gaston Kent, vice president of business management for Northrop Grumman. 

William Powers, executive vice president and CFO for Rolls Royce, praised Virginia’s positive business climate. He said the ability of local and state government and institutions of higher learning to work together helped his company build a new production facility on 1,000 acres in Prince George County. It will begin making discs and blisks — components for aerospace engines — in February.

The first phase of the project took 200 acres and created about 100 new jobs, plus 160 jobs during the construction, Powers said. Virginia’s ability to graduate 1,000 new engineers a year is a big plus, Phe added. Yet when it comes to workf orce development, Rolls-Royce has some concerns. “What is in place today can meet our needs. But if we’re going to convince the company to make another innvestment in the site or for suppliers to locate to Virginia, we need modern facilities and updated teaching methods,” Powers said.


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