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Industry advisers see promising ways to expand IT sector in rural Virginia

The technology sector’s growth in Northern Virginia could – with Virginia Tech as a key higher education partner – be modeled in rural Virginia, panelists said during a recent session of the President Tim Sands’ leadership council in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area.

Steps include convincing companies that an educated talent pool exists in Southwest Virginia, said Stephen Moret, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Moret’s optimism was echoed by Sonu Singh, a 1991 Virginia Tech graduate and CEO of the IT company 1901 Group, which recently broke ground for an $8.8 million, 45,000-square-foot building in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. As technology companies set up shop in rural areas, the cloud and cybersecurity workforce can be drawn from various disciplines and backgrounds, not just computer science, Singh said.

“We have hired folks who might not have an IT degree, and we’ve said IT isn’t this dark black magic that it used to be,” Singh said. “We are really opening the aperture of people who can be in IT. And this area has a lot of embedded talent. We feel we can train a lot of different types of people for this work.” 1901 Group employs 100 people in Reston, D.C., and across the U.S., and 230 in Blacksburg with plans to hire hundreds more when its new office opens in 2020.


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