Local News

Legislation Could Steer $2.4M to High-Tech Defense Incubator in Fayetteville

Posted June 15, 2006 10:15 a.m. EDT

— The high-tech business incubator being created in Fayetteville could receive a $2.4 million boost from the federal government if legislation backed by Congressman Robin Hayes passes in Congress.

Hayes, a Republican, has secured the money for the Defense and Security Technology Accelerator as part of the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2007.

The Senate has yet to consider its own version of the defense funding bill, but the $2.4 million in funding is supported by both of North Carolina's senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, according to Joan Myers, chief executive officer of the North Carolina Technology Association. The NCTA is a strong advocate for the Accelerator, having helped drive state legislation that created it. The non-profit Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville is overseeing the building of the Accelerator.

The NCTA and other backers, including a statewide advisory board, consider the Accelerator as the hub for a future defense and security industry cluster.

The federal funds are for the creation of a WiFi, or wireless fidelity, testing lab to develop improved wireless communications for the military.

"I am pleased to announce that Fayetteville's Partnership for Defense Innovation WiFi Test Lab will benefit from this critical funding for defense-related research in wireless battlefield networks," Hayes said in a statement. "This research has immense implications for our soldiers communicating in the battlefield. Supporting defense research creates improved equipment for our military but it also creates jobs and opportunities for the Fayetteville businesses."

A search continues for a president for the Accelerator, according to Myers. A building that will serve as the home for the facility should be signed soon, she added.

The NCTA and the Partnership for Defense Innovation is also seeking $2 million in additional state funding from the General Assembly. The Accelerator received $2 million in funding last year. "We believe there will be additional state funding this year," Myers said.

The Accelerator will have space for between 12 and 15 companies that are focused on defense, security, communications and other military-related technologies.

"There has been extraordinary political cooperation, and Congressman Hayes has been a key architect," said Myers.

An initial focus on WiFi makes sense given the types of missions assigned to military units, such as Special Forces, operating out of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base that are near Fayetteville, Myers said.

"The subject matter experts are available to help accelerate these technologies, to get better technology to our war fighters in the war on terror, in intelligence gathering, for disaster relief - across the full spectrum," Myers explained.

She stressed that numerous companies in North Carolina have the expertise and technology to work with the military and drive product development.

The WiFi lab will work to incorporate video, still imagery, information from manned and unmanned platforms as well as sensors into a better command and control, or C2, system, Hayes and Myers said.

"We believe the proximity to these bases and collaboration with them will allow us to develop state of the art solutions very quickly," Myers added.