From developments on the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Middle and upstart small companies to developments in distant working and federal recruiting, West Virginia’s tech leaders are optimistic in regards to the trade’s prospects in 2021.
Exterior of COVID-19, one of many greatest developments of 2020 that can impression the state this 12 months is the set up of the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Middle in Grant and Tucker counties.
When accomplished, the ability shall be used as a check web site for Hyperloop expertise, and lots of expertise leaders, together with TechConnect CEO Anne Barth, assume the positioning may have a serious financial impression on the state.
“For my part, this can be a large advance and a terrific morale enhance along with different good expertise information that now we have seen within the final 12 months in West Virginia,” Barth mentioned. “I am very excited to see what all of it means and what it is going to appear like in West Virginia.”
Barth’s sentiment on Hyperloop is shared by Jim Estep, president and CEO of the Excessive Tech Basis at Fairmont.
“I feel having the Hyperloop certification facility right here in West Virginia creates a big alternative to draw not solely federal operations, for instance the US Division of Transportation, but in addition varied firms that might help the certification program,” he mentioned This P.
“Along with leveraging the Hyperloop operation to contract federal services, we must also work very exhausting to place ourselves because the manufacturing web site for not simply Hyperloop automobiles, however for the opposite elements wanted to construct a completely operational Hyperloop someplace within the nation. . “
However the optimism for 2021 goes past the Hyperloop. In reality, Estep mentioned it could possibly be a landmark 12 months for West Virginia’s tech sector, and he is extremely longing for what it might deliver.
“I’m in all probability extra optimistic about 2021 than I’ve been lately, not solely due to what is occurring on the Excessive Tech Basis, however due to what I’ve seen with the initiatives that John Chambers and Brad Smith are selling,” Estep mentioned.
“It has created a really tangible momentum that we’ve not seen earlier than and that I feel has unbelievable potential. Some may say that, with the seditions within the coal trade and the unbelievable uncertainty within the pure gasoline trade, we have to have a way of urgency to maximise the impression of that momentum. “
An instance of momentum, in line with Estep, is the power to draw distant staff to the state. He mentioned that since West Virginia has a decrease value of dwelling than many surrounding areas, coupled with the push to telecommute because of the pandemic, this could possibly be a profitable alternative for the state.
That’s an opinion shared by Barth.
“I feel West Virginia is in a novel place to announce that we’re a terrific place to go in the event you can work remotely,” Barth mentioned. “If you’d like to have the ability to afford a home and also you need to have cool issues to do in your spare time, it’s best to go to West Virginia. …
“I hope to see us profit from that this 12 months as individuals make their very own plans and firms work out which elements of the workforce may need to return to the workplace and which of them won’t. These individuals, like all of us, are in all probability re-evaluating their choices, and I’d love for West Virginia to draw distant staff from different states. “
Estep mentioned the rise in distant work might additionally have an effect on recruiting efforts from each the Excessive Tech Basis (at I-79 Tech Park) and organizations in different elements of the state.
“I do not assume the alternatives related to distant work are essentially going to harm our federal anchor recruiting efforts,” Estep mentioned. “In any case, you may allow them, as a result of the concept of with the ability to work remotely, I feel, is a supporting argument for relocating a few of these operations exterior of the DC metropolitan space. Mainly, the pandemic, for my part, has created a paradigm shift within the considering course of that everybody has to stand up within the morning and go to the workplace. …
“So by de-emphasizing that paradigm … that simply strengthens our capacity to get them to contemplate coming to I-79 Tech Park or West Virginia, particularly contemplating the very actual nationwide safety points that exist within the space of DC and the price of operations in that space. “
Barth mentioned 2021 may be an excellent 12 months for entrepreneurs seeking to lastly get their companies going. Barth referenced the Small Enterprise Innovation Analysis (SBIR) and Small Enterprise Know-how Switch (STTR) packages, which offer funding to eligible startups.
He mentioned that these two packages might have a terrific impression this 12 months and thanked these answerable for their implementation.
“I need to credit score the legislature for creating such a robust incentive that it encourages our small companies and researchers to discover this funding supply, which is named America’s seed fund,” Barth mentioned. “I am searching for extra nice issues to return out of that present and I feel it is a positive means to assist diversify the state’s financial system, which is one thing we’re all seeking to do.”
Whereas noting that the pandemic has had a horrible impression on many areas of every day life, he mentioned a silver lining is that, with all the additional free time, entrepreneurs and researchers have been capable of focus and develop their enterprise concepts to a terrific extent. larger.
“One factor we realized final 12 months is that when actions are scaled down and restricted, it is a good time to hold your head, do some analysis and possibly put collectively your marketing strategy,” Barth mentioned.
“You are able to do all of the groundwork mandatory to contemplate launching a brand new enterprise. As we head into 2021 with a few of those self same restrictions in place, I feel it is going to function a motivator for individuals who could also be on the point of deciding whether or not to open a brand new enterprise or do some extra in-depth analysis and take inventory. . and prepare for a extra full financial restoration quickly. “
Whereas the pandemic nonetheless looms principally within the state, the nation, and the world, Barth and Estep stay cautiously optimistic in regards to the progress of the tech sector in 2021, and Estep mentioned the assorted modifications brought on by the virus might imply nice stuff for The Mountain State.
“I do not assume the pandemic will magically disappear, however I feel we will see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel due to the vaccine,” Estep mentioned. “I feel we’ll see a motion in the direction of normalcy, however I additionally imagine that issues will change without end. That could possibly be very optimistic for the state of West Virginia. “
Fairmont Information editor John Mark Shaver may be reached at 304-844-8485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.