Wallops Research Park on the map

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The outlook for employment opportunities on Virginia’s Eastern Shore received a boost with the opening of Wallops Research Park (WRP).

The park is on a 200-acre plot of land adjacent to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. It was created to draw high-tech firms interested in leveraging the opportunities offered by NASA, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and federal agencies in the area. They include the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As a result, officials say, Accomack County could become a regional center for research and technology. Park tenants will have access to Wallops’ runways, research facilities and payload processing center. They also could capitalize on the activities at MARS, where Orbital Sciences Corp. recently launched the Tactical Satellite-3 for the U.S. Air Force.

“The goal is to capitalize on what’s already here and provide the kind of long-term environment that will attract and maintain science and high-tech and educational programs and activities,” says Amy Bull, project manager for the WRP, a partnership involving Accomack County, NASA and the Marine Science Consortium. “That will do two things: it will supplement what’s going on at NASA and with the other partners, and it will also contribute greatly to the economic development of the Eastern Shore.”

Already, the facility has drawn commitments from Northrop Grumman, which supports the Navy’s Surface Combat Systems Center at Wallops, and BaySys Technologies, which retrofits airplanes.

BaySys, which is temporarily working in a leased facility at Wallops, is constructing a 360,000-square-foot facility in the park. The building will house two aircraft hangars, each large enough to house the world’s largest airplanes, including the Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8. One hangar is scheduled to be completed in mid-2010 and the other in 2011.

Bull notes that BaySys, which has about 260 employees working at NASA Wallops, is expected to add 250 jobs once the new facility is operational.

In the meantime, WRP officials are talking with several other high-tech and scientific companies. Bull believes one or two of them could sign on with a commitment in the next few months.

“It’s too crystal ball-like to try and predict how many jobs we’ll create as a result of the park,” she says. “One thing we know, though, is that those jobs will be new economy, family-wage jobs that should be in line with what NASA and its partners pay, which is far above the average wage currently paid in this region.” 

Photo courtesy BusinessWire

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