STEM+H development advantages for Richmond, VirginiaSTEM+H employees are in high demand across the Commonwealth and these industries (science, technology, engineering, math and health) are among the fastest-growing throughout the U.S.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM has an expected national industry growth of 8.8 percent between 2018 and 2028. The health industry alone has a projected growth of 14 percent, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. Greater Richmond mirrored this nationwide trend by increasing 2.6 percent in STEM+H occupations between 2018-19. Isolated health occupations increased by 2.7, above the national level of 2.3 percent.

Tech outlook

Tech epicenters are trending outside of Silicon Valley and the Greater Richmond region has become an attractive destination. WalletHub compared the top 100 markets for STEM professionals ranking the Richmond MSA on its shortlist, naming quality of life, STEM friendliness and professional opportunities as critical factors.

The region’s also considered attractive for connection to subsea fiber cables (MAREA and BRUSA), affordable sites and tax incentives. Chesterfield County recently reduced its data center tax rates by 86.6 percent. Taxes dropped from $1.80 per $100 to $0.24 per $100, making it the lowest data center tax rate in the state. Henrico County reduced its tax rate on data centers in 2017. Those operating in Henrico saw an 88.6 percent decrease on computer and related equipment tax rates, decreasing the rate from $3.50 to $0.40 per $100 and major tech companies are taking note.

Facebook is currently developing in Henrico’s White Oak Technology Park, set to occupy 2.5 million square feet of data center space upon completion, creating over 240 new jobs. This project joins existing data centers in the region such as QTS, Capital One, Bank of America and others.

Healthcare trends

In 2019, Virginia made WalletHub’s shortlist for Best States for Doctors, ranking high in the ‘medical environment’ category, which measures the quality of the public hospital system, hospital safety, and presence of nationally accredited departments.

The Richmond Region has more than 4,100 physicians and 19 acute care/specialty hospitals with nearly 4,000 staffed beds. The most extensive medical systems include Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System and McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

HCA Virginia is headquartered in Richmond and is the third-largest employer in the region after VCU Health. HCA maintains a network of six hospitals, four free-standing emergency centers, over 2,500 affiliated physicians and more than 300 community-based providers.

Bon Secours Health System has four hospitals in Greater Richmond plus additional care facilities, as well as a college of nursing, a school of medical imaging, and two-family practice residency programs. It is the fourth-largest private employer in Greater Richmond.

STEM+H pipeline

Among competitive market advantages, the Richmond Region is home to nearly 30 institutions of higher education which train and supply the next generation of skilled professionals. Local universities and colleges offer a wide arrange of degree programs ranging from certificates to PhDs. Community colleges and technical schools have become a popular option for industry-specific professional careers, such as technical support, web design and medical assistant:

  • VCU Health is one of the most innovative and comprehensive medical centers in the country. The VCU medical school is one of the largest programs in the nation and houses the oldest transplant center in the country.
  • VCU is diligently working to accommodate an increased demand for lab space by breaking ground on a new STEM building in Spring 2020.
  • VCU Health continues to grow and plans to complete a new $349 million outpatient facility in 2020.
  • The University of Richmond offers competitive STEM programs to potential and current students allowing them to get hands-on experience. These programs (SMART and URISE) aim to increase the number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and math disciplines
  • Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed a $1 million investment to establish UTeach programs at VSU, a public historically black college. The program would allow students to receive their secondary teaching certificate while also completing a STEM major, without adding additional time or cost to their degree.
  • VCU is in the process of launching a new Center for Innovation STEM education building at the Science Museum of Virginia. This culturally-responsive program will pair with Greater Richmond K-12 institutions to provide improved and expanded STEM education to diverse students.

The outlook for college graduates is positive, as STEM+H related fields are some of the most stable and lucrative. Virginia is expected to add over 150,000 STEM jobs over the next five years. Top areas of growth for STEM+H professions in Greater Richmond include registered nurses, software developers, computer system analysts and information security analysts.

A vital location for science & tech

Despite growth, Greater Richmond wages remain 20 percent lower than the Washington, D.C., and other major east coast metros, on par with national salaries for bioscience and information technology.

In addition to upcoming development, Greater Richmond is home to the VA Bio+Tech Park, adjacent to VCU Medical Center. The Park is home to a unique mix of more than 60 companies, laboratories and research centers with over 2,400 workers. Over the past year, two leading health innovators have added to the already impressive roster at the VA Bio+Tech Park:

  • In January, Tympanogen, a medical device startup, was awarded nearly $250,000 as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Department of Defense. This Phase I award will support safety testing of Tympanogen’s gel patch for eardrum repair, used in field settings to treat service members sustaining perforated eardrums.
  • Headquartered in Marseille, France, HalioDx opened its first North American facility at the Park last February, pioneering the immunological diagnosis of cancers and improving the management of localized colon cancer.

As nationwide demand increases for qualified employees, expect the Greater Richmond region to continue to distinguish itself, grooming, attracting and maintaining businesses and professionals alike.

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Why RVA is a gateway for cybersecurity firms

Business Facilities has recognized Greater Richmond’s cybersecurity strength and also named Virginia as one of the states with the highest growth potential for cybersecurity leading the region’s geographical location, technical talent, and cybersecurity education options to bridge a path for multiple cybersecurity firms. GEThomas Reuters, and even the Federal Reserve have recognized the region’s potential in information security and decided to name the Richmond Region home for cyber operations. Since 2010, 78 cybersecurity companies have located new offices or expanded existing operations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These new and expanding companies have generated a total of 4,500+ jobs for the state and raised $145 million in capital investments.

Regional Access & Infrastructure

Being the center-point of the East Coast, Greater Richmond’s location eliminates barriers for the cybersecurity industry. The region’s strong technical talent, access to essential data cables and networks combined with its fast internet speeds create the perfect environment for cybersecurity firms. Growth opportunities include cyber security and data centers with Facebook, GE, and Peak 10 already established in the region due to its accessibility.

The Richmond area offers pre-certified, secure sites, reliable fiber and redundant power paired with competitive taxes, moderate costs, and a business-friendly operating environment. The confluence of the MAREA/BRUSA next-generation subsea cables and the QTS Richmond Network Access Point (NAP) are establishing Greater Richmond as the premier North American global interconnection hub. With the creation of the QTS Richmond NAP, the region offers the fastest, lowest-latency connectivity in North America from the U.S. to Southern Europe, Latin and South America. It also offers international networking without having to collocate in or connect through the Ashburn, Va., mega center in northern Virginia.

With data center, subsea fibers, and terrestrial networks converging at the NAP, it makes the region ideal and “a must” hotspot for cybersecurity and other Information Technology clusters. Greater Richmond was recently recognized as a Fintech hotspot where advanced telecommunications, an educated labor pool, streamlined regulations and low taxes are in abundance.

Activity in RVA

The region’s accessibility and talented workforce have attracted many cybersecurity offices and even has caught the eye of the Federal Reserve. Did you know the Federal Reserve’s national information technology department is centered here in the Richmond Region? On top of that, three new or expanding cybersecurity offices and operations have located in the Richmond Region in recent years:

  • Wipro Group launched a next generation engineering and innovation center in Richmond. The Indian-based multi-national corporation offers information technology, consulting, cognitive computing, robotics and various business process services. Wipro will add 200 jobs by 2021 and entails a new 10,000 square-foot facility focused on engineering solutions, customer experience and accelerators across cybersecurity. Virginia’s reputation for innovation, commerce, academic excellence and world-class engineering talent influenced the firm’s decision to invest and expand in the region.
  • Thomson Reuters selected the City of Richmond for its cyberfusion center. Thomson Reuters, a news and information company, opened its new internal cybersecurity operations center and hired 68 employees in highly-specialized roles and made capital investments totaling $2.18 million. Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of news and information for professional markets. They chose Greater Richmond in their overall decision due to the region’s access to information security talent and cyber-related resources from the local academic community. The region’s ability to retain cybersecurity talent compared to the Washington D.C. market was also a contributing factor.
  • GE established its Information Security Technology Center in Henrico County to coordinate cybersecurity, network design, and data management applications. This technology center created 200 new jobs for the region and raised $2.5 million in capital investments. Virginia’s top-notch internet and software companies, technical talent, and strong IT and cybersecurity education options were key contributors for GE to establish its presence in the region.
  • The National White Collar Crime Center expanded operations to Greater Richmond for the prevention of economic and cyber crime. Capital investments for this project reached $1.31 million with four new jobs generated through the expansion.

University Contributions

Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU has played a key role, partnering with cybersecurity firms due to its vast abundance of initiatives and programs. Recently, VCU was named the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This designation speaks highly of the College of Engineering faculty and staff who are preparing the next generation who will make the digital world safe and secure.

VCU is going above and beyond in cybersecurity to ensure students are ready for future advancements. Over the summer, VCU was poised to lead a regional cybersecurity effort named CyberX. The university led in creating one of four regional “nodes” in a new statewide network that’s designed to boost higher education research in cybersecurity, create work-study opportunities for students, and foster new commercial technology to drive growth. This state-wide initiative includes a diversified faculty of 320 employees compiled from 39 higher education institutions, 65 private companies, four government agencies and 45 regional partners.

Other information technology advancements include the VCU College of Engineering researchers being selected by the National Science Foundation for nearly $1 million of funding towards their artificial intelligence (AI) for a shared network to be used by molecular scientists. The goal of this initiative is to engage the research community in developing an advanced cyber-infrastructure to accelerate data-intensive research.

University of Richmond

The University of Richmond’s School of Professional & Continuing Studies offers two degrees in information systems: information security and IT management.

The university also offers other short-term cybersecurity education options that helps advance and evolve professionals in cybersecurity and gives professionals with little-to-no experience in information systems to scratch the surface of cybersecurity as it continues to grow into all clusters of business.

  • UR Cybersecurity Boot Camp is the most notable cybersecurity program by the University of Richmond that takes a multidisciplinary approach in helping professionals attain a proficiency in IT, networking, and information security in just 24 weeks.
  • Their Certificate in Information Security continues education in information systems for cybersecurity professionals to be updated and aware of new information system techniques. It results in learning cutting-edge theories from leading industry practitioners.

Other regional institutions

Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Randolph-Macon College offer degrees in information systems and cyber security with minors in cybersecurity:

  • The Virginia State University School of Business’ computer information systems department gives students a solid understanding of use, design, development, and management of information systems.
  • Virginia Union University offers a degree and a minor in cybersecurity through their School of Mathematics, Science and Technology.
  • Randolph-Macon College provides an opportunity for a career in information systems with their degree in cybersecurity. It encompasses a strong liberal arts approach emphasizing communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, critical thinking and teamwork.

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Greater Richmond: Fintech Hotspot

By Mark Crawford, Staff Editor  |  Area Development

Richmond’s emerging financial technology market is challenging traditional districts, with its advanced telecommunications infrastructure, educated workers with high-tech skills, streamlined regulations, and low taxes.

Financial technology (fintech) is one of the hottest technology sectors to emerge over the last decade. Once limited to traditional financial centers, fintech is now a rapidly expanding market with innovative startups that can set up operations just about anywhere. Smaller cities can easily compete with larger, well-established fintech clusters in other cities if they have an abundance of IT talent, modern infrastructure, and low business costs.

“Today’s growing fintech markets are smaller cities that tend to share a vibrant professional services economy, advanced telecommunications infrastructure, a growing pool of college-educated and tech-focused millennials, limited regulatory landscapes, and low taxes,” says Tedd Carrison, a financial analyst with CBRE. “These markets often provide business amenities and opportunities that are similar to the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, while offering lower costs.”

Richmond Emerges

Capital One Financial operates its largest corporate campus in the Richmond Region.

Richmond has the perfect blend of site location factors that fintech companies seek. Workforce skills are typically a top consideration. The entire state of Virginia is tech-savvy. For example, northern Virginia is the largest and most active data center market in the U.S. and has the second-highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation. Richmond was also recently ranked as the “Third-Best City (Outside Silicon Valley) for Your Next StartUp” by BroadBandNow based on Internet speed, startup culture, and cost of living.

Richmond also offers advanced telecommunications infrastructure, a plentiful labor pool of college-educated workers with high-tech skills, streamlined regulations, and low taxes — other key site selection factors for fintech. In fact, data center tax rate reductions by as much as 88 percent in Henrico and Chesterfield counties have greatly enhanced the attractiveness of the Greater Richmond area for data operations.

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“The city is already a significant banking and financial services hub, led by the Fifth District Federal Reserve and a broad spectrum of companies engaged in banking, brokerage, investment banking, specialty finance, and insurance,” says John Boyd, principal with The Boyd Company, a Princeton, New Jersey-based location consulting firm that frequently works with fintech companies.

The sector is led by Capital One, followed by Atlantic Union Bank, Genworth Financial, Anthem and Markel Insurance, Davenport and Company brokerage, and investment bankers Matrix Capital.

“Richmond has a long history of being home to financial services companies and most are using dynamic data to push profits to the next level,” says Lara Fritts, president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership.

“Fintech is an evolution of two existing business clusters, and Richmond provides an important intersection for data centers, cybersecurity, and other digital services.”

Now headquartered in McLean, Va., Capital One got started in Richmond in the early 1990s. Today, Capital One is one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers. It still maintains a huge credit card processing and client services presence in Richmond, where it employs some 13,000 workers — the Richmond region’s largest employer. Its $150 million data center is one of three primary facilities in the U.S. where the company stores and manages customer data. Capital One also recently acquired Notch, a technology company founded in Richmond in 2014 that specializes in data engineering and machine learning.

Paymerang, a Richmond-based fintech firm, provides a digital platform that allows its clients to pay all their vendors electronically. Over the last year the company has nearly doubled its workforce by adding new positions in sales and marketing, information technology, and customer service. Now with a staff of 80 employees, the company expects to employ a total of 100 workers by the end of 2019.

“Our goal is to make Paymerang a big player in the payments space, specifically in business payments,” says Paymerang CEO Nasser Chanda. “The industry we serve is still in the early stages, so we have a tremendous opportunity to capture and grow our share of the space.”

Another fast-growing Richmond-based fintech is WealthForge, which provides a processing technology platform for alternative investments. In 2018, the company processed over $500 million in alternative investment transactions and surpassed $1 billion in lifetime transactions. It has also been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country by placing No. 932 on the Inc. 5000 and No. 189 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, thanks to a remarkable 531 percent revenue growth between 2015 and 2017.

Talent, Collaboration, Innovation

Other fintech companies with established operations in the Richmond area include Bank of America, Allianz Partners, West Creek Financial, BlueSwipe, Coin Savage, DineGigs, and Fenris Digital. Two big reasons that these and other fintech companies come to Richmond are the startup support and skilled talent.

The 1717 Innovation Center is home to StartUp Virginia.

For example, 1717 Innovation Center — a six-story, 42,000-square-foot building — recently opened inside an extensively renovated former tobacco warehouse. The Capital One-backed Innovation Center will serve as an incubator for as many as 50 startup businesses at a time, providing affordable business space, along with mentoring and leadership programs and community events and conferences. Capital One has invested in the incubator as part of its Future Edge initiative, a five-year, $150 million grant program aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, workforce training, and financial education in the communities where the company operates.

“Capital One was originally a Richmond-based startup 25 years ago and we are proud to be the area’s largest employer today. Richmond is a great place to work for many reasons including the exceptional universities, incredible talent and supportive government, and nonprofit partners dedicated to continuous innovation. Our employees enjoy living in Richmond for its unique quality of life featuring endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, vibrant fine arts scene, critically-acclaimed restaurants, and historic attractions dating back 400 years,” says Buck Stinson, senior vice president of U.S. Card Partnerships for Capital One.

Fintech companies that are looking for space are always impressed by the fact that Virginia turns out about 2,700 college graduates in finance every year — the factor that is “most in demand by our corporate site-seeking clients, both in and out of the banking and fintech sectors,” says Boyd. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond offers a degree in fintech and operates its Capital Markets Center, a 1,700-square-foot facility equipped with industry-standard technologies. Students, faculty, and business community partners use the center to monitor real-time financial market data, carry out research, and attend presentations.

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Boyd expects Amazon’s HQ2 going into northern Virginia will have significant positive economic impacts on Richmond. “Amazon’s $2.5 billion second headquarters planned for Arlington’s Crystal City will likely inspire a bevy of tech suppliers, vendors, and spinoff companies to include options within Virginia as part of their expansion plans over the next several years,” says Boyd, who expects the Richmond area to enjoy the same Amazon-generated tech growth experienced by Seattle (Amazon’s first headquarters), which included major expansions of Facebook, Apple, Expedia, and fintechs such as Avalara, Remitly, and Gravity Payments.

Another downstream benefit of northern Virginia’s Amazon presence is the fact that Virginia has committed to dramatically increasing its investment in high-tech education programs across the entire state — a main reason Amazon chose northern Virginia.

“Over $1.1 billion in state money will be flowing through a new pipeline to high-tech academic programs at universities and colleges throughout Virginia,” says Boyd.

These include institutions in the Richmond area such as Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, and Richard Bland College, based outside of nearby Petersburg.

“The Greater Richmond area provides an established and growing pipeline of technology talent for Bank of America,” says Victor Branch, senior vice president and Richmond market president at Bank of America. “Recently CEO Brian Moynihan stated that Bank of America is a technology company wrapped around a bank, and as we continue to grow and adapt our services to a new economy, we look to markets like Richmond to fuel that growth. We have had a long history here in Richmond and are excited about our continued partnership together.”

Richmond is also high on the radar for major banks that are now investing heavily in their own fintech operations. They are no longer ignoring the competition from upstart fintechs and are now pushing back with their biggest weapon: cash. “Spending levels in fintech this year by major banks are stunning — $11.4 billion by JP Morgan Chase, $10 billion by Bank of America, $9 billion by Wells Fargo, and $8 billion by Citigroup,” says Boyd. “Richmond’s positive labor climate and real estate bargains when compared to East Coast banking centers like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Wilmington have put Richmond in good stead from a fintech attraction standpoint.”

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Manufacturing, I.T. and supply chain companies keeping a close eye on their budget should be pleased to learn electric rates in Greater Richmond are well below state, Mid-Atlantic, and national averages.

Companies large and small could benefit from relocating to the region. According to the Edison Electric Institute, the typical industrial rate is 5.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for a company using 1,000 kilowatts and consuming 650,000 kilowatt-hours per month in Richmond as of July 2019. When compared to typical rates of 6.7 and 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour offered by Southeast utilities and the national average respectively, this is an advantageous price for advanced manufacturing, supply chain, and I.T. companies.

A major reason why Greater Richmond electric prices are lower than other regions is because of both generation and delivery. According to the EIA, there are several factors that go into being able to produce and deliver electricity, such as:

  • Reliable transmission and distribution systems. Maintenance and repair costs to these systems can increase overall electricity prices.
  • Multiple, accessible power plants in the region. Richmond is geographically close to many of Dominion Energy’s power plant, such as two nuclear power stations, and other generation sources, such as solar facilities.
  • Access to sufficient water, wind and daylight. These resources can lower electricity costs with harvestable energy from hydro plants and solar panels.
    • Dominion Energy publicly committed to have 3,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy “in operation or under development” by 2022. That’s enough to power 750,000 homes with clean, renewable energy.
    • According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar electricity prices in Virginia have fallen 34 percent in the past five years, and the state is ranked 7th for projected growth in the next five years.
    • Dominion Energy’s pilot offshore wind project began construction in July 2019 and will consist of two 6-megawatt turbines. Located off the coast of Virginia Beach, it’s the first offshore wind project in U.S. Federal waters.

Any company looking to relocate should consider a region that provides the lowest electric prices. Greater Richmond, Va., is a great option for any company on the East Coast, as its statistically low industrial electric bills shine when compared to its competitors.

Tax rates for data centers are dropping in Greater Richmond, enhancing its value as a haven for information technology companies planning to establish new facilities.

Greater Richmond is already a prime location for firms with IT demands due to various incentive programs, highspeed transcontinental Internet cables and the Richmond NAP, which will additionally boost Internet speeds to new heights.

But the number of IT firms in the region can be expected to increase with decreased tax rates:

  • Chesterfield County recently reduced its data center tax rates by 86.6%. Taxes dropped from $1.80 per $100 to $0.24 per $100, making it the lowest data center tax rate in the state. Existing and future data centers in Chesterfield will see the new business property tax rate in July 2019.
  • Henrico County reduced its tax rate on data centers in 2017. Those operating in Henrico saw an 88.6% decrease on computer and related equipment tax rates, decreasing the rate from $3.50 to $0.40 per $100.

Richmond, Va., was ranked 3rd Best City (Outside Silicon Valley) For Your Next Startup by BroadBandNow in 2019 based on Internet speed, startup culture, and cost of living. The overall state of Virginia was also ranked as a top 10 “Most Innovative State” by WalletHub. The ranking is determined by a state’s human capital and innovation environment, partly based on the share of technology companies.

In Greater Richmond alone, there are over 2,400 information technology firms operating data centers—including Capital One, Facebook, Bank of America, Quality Technological Services (QTS) and Flexential. Richmond tech firms employ more than 21,300 employees throughout Greater Richmond.

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The Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP) assisted in organizing and sponsoring the 12th Entrepreneurship Export Exchanges (E3) Conference, hosted at the University of Richmond on June 14th, 2019. GRP was proud to engage with the E3 conference in Richmond, as the GRP program Richmond Metro Exports Initiative (MREI) is currently making strides in the region. MREI is a nonprofit that assists central Virginian business with their exporting goals and educates on the benefits of exporting.

E3 is produced by Global Situation Room and focuses on business globalization strategies with insights from industry experts. E3 2019 engaged with the challenges of taking technology global, how to navigate global markets while maintaining security and how to innovate during transition. Speakers included Peter Fatelnig, the Minister Counselor for Digital Economic Policy of the EU delegation, Bloomberg’s Economic Policy Editor Sarah McGregor, MSNBC’s Kendis Gibson, Haley Jonathan Wachtel, Director of Communications for US Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Oxford Analytica CEO David K. Young.

A breakfast hosted by the Richmond Symphony preceded the conference. The Richmond Symphony was proud to share that the international Menuhin Competition — often referred to as “the Olympics of violin” — will be hosted by Richmond in 2020, and will bring talent and visitors from around the world to Richmond for an 11-day festival.

E3 Richmond 2019

Clint Heiden, Chief Revenue Officer of QTS Realty Trust, Inc., discussed the Richmond area Network Access Point (NAP) — where data center, subsea fiber and terrestrial networks converge — as a factor in drawing large technology and Internet companies to Greater Richmond.

QTS, a leading provider of data center solutions, along with Telxius, a telecom infrastructure provider responsible for subsea Internet cables MAREA and BRUSA, created the new Richmond NAP. The NAP allows customers to complete high-speed international networking without having to collocate in or connect through the Ashburn, Va., mega center.

“The subsea cables that terminate in Richmond have opened an amazing opportunity for Henrico County to become a LOCUS for both domestic and international applications. That gives good reason for the creation of the QTS Richmond NAP, a place where multiple providers and Internet services can meet, connect and reach the international cables that link Virginia to other parts of the world.” – Vint Cerf, Chief Evangelist for Google, also known as one of the co-inventers of the Internet.

The Richmond NAP will offer the fastest, lowest-latency connectivity in North America from the U.S. to Southern Europe, Latin and South America.

Heiden responded to several questions on the Richmond NAP and why the world’s largest technology and Internet companies are coming to Henrico County:

Q. Why is it an opportune time for infrastructure investment?

A. The confluence of the MAREA/BRUSA next-generation subsea cables and the QTS Richmond NAP are establishing Richmond as the premier North American global interconnection hub. There have been some significant investments in Henrico recently. In just two years since the cable landing deployment, Henrico County accounted for 53% of announced statewide investments in Data Processing and Hosting, compared to just 6% during the nine-year period from 2008 to 2016, according to Mangum Economics for the Northern Va. Technology Council in 2018.

It’s amazing when you consider the technology and business influence global leaders have. Their interest validates the importance of the subsea cables terminating in Henrico County and the business ecosystems that are being created. In addition to the obvious value to Henrico, this new NAP is important to the growth of the Internet and its data flow allowing for a bypass of Ashburn, which is becoming congested and overly expensive.

Q. What are the forces driving the Richmond NAP?

A. If you think your business is not a data business, then you are late to the game. Just think about banking: if I can’t bank online I’ll switch to another bank. Likewise, if you don’t understand that once on the Internet your business is global, then you’re missing growth opportunities and not thinking big enough. The NAP addresses both of these issues. In addition, new applications and services are generating staggering increases in data production that are fueling dramatic growth in demand for local, regional, national and global connectivity that rely on subsea cables as the cornerstone for global interconnection and transmission.

Richmond is an ideal geographic location for North American continental access of subsea cables and all forms of interconnection mentioned previously. The QTS Richmond NAP is one of the world’s largest carrier-neutral data centers as well as a business-friendly environment. Facebook has begun their multi-billion investment adjacent to the Richmond NAP, along with Bank of America and Kinsale Insurance who are expanding their operations in Henrico County. These are just three of many enterprises making major investments in data-driven infrastructure in the region. The region is also creating a business ecosystem for entrepreneurial firms and is becoming an area of incubation for startups led by students coming out of leading surrounding state universities.

Q. What are the technological advancements making the QTS Richmond NAP a reality?

A. Good question and it’s about more than just technology. Henrico County has been at the forefront of attracting investment from network and data center providers due to a combination of business-friendly policies, attractive land for development, scalable power and a highly educated workforce in the county and surrounding areas. As a result, the area has a rich tapestry of existing fiber networks, Internet exchanges, SDN networks and data centers serving thousands of customers.

In just the last two years you have the arrival of both the MAREA and BRUSA subsea cables, along with the Facebook investment. These are transformative events that have opened the European, Latin and South American markets to the region via the lowest latency and highest capacity ever deployed between the continents.

Then when you consider the performance enabled by these subsea cables, it all becomes clear. MAREA and BRUSA are the highest capacity, lowest latency subsea cable systems ever built. MAREA is a Telxius joint project with Facebook and Microsoft. Innovations in optical transmission are enabling staggering increases in capacity. MAREA has reached 200 terabits per second (Tbps) of ultrahigh transmission capacity and is the highest capacity subsea cable system across the Atlantic connecting the US and Southern Europe.

BRUSA is a private cable built by Telxius and offers one of the lowest latency communication links between the U.S. and Brazil. Together, these cables provide state-of-the-art connectivity to enable the development of next generation cloud services and content distribution to and from Latin America and European markets.

To put this next-generation capacity and speed into perspective, 200 terabits per second is the equivalent of being able to download 12,000 HD movies per second, or every movie ever made in 42 seconds! This compares with cable systems developed as recently as 2013 that only delivered 9 Tbps.

Another major advancement is innovation in optical transmission that is enabling a new interconnection model where subsea cables can now terminate directly inside a multi-tenant data center rather than the traditional cable landing station (CLS) typically near a beach with limited interconnect options. Today’s data-intensive applications are driving demand for capacity and performance that is better served by terminating subsea cables directly in a connectivity-rich NAP as close as possible to the CLS.

Also in the works are numerous additional subsea cable terminations in the Richmond NAP that will connect the continents of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as a second path to Europe.

Q. Why did Telxius choose Richmond and QTS for the cable terminations?

A. Because of its speed and proximity to the rest of the US, Richmond is the best access point into North America — more so than older cable landings in Florida, New York and New Jersey. QTS’ Richmond data center is one of the world’s largest and features in-building access to a wide array of on-net carriers including multiple fiber routes, third-party neutral Internet peering exchanges, and direct access to the world’s largest cloud platforms.

The Richmond NAP provides unmatched speed and savings for enterprises and hyperscalers that no longer must route their content through exchanges in Northern Virginia. Traffic can now be routed to major metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Cleveland and many more areas faster and cheaper than relying on Northern Virginia. Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have established, or are in the process of establishing, a presence in the region to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Q. How important are the cables to the global economy?

A. The Internet and its growth, such as the new QTS Richmond NAP, means every company is global and as such has access to new customers, technologies and even employees. Just a few years ago you rarely heard talk about subsea cables when you were talking about data center infrastructure. Today, virtually every data center is making interconnection with subsea cables a priority to support data-driven global business. And it’s reflected in the international capacity deployed by the big content, cloud and hyperscale companies increasing 14-fold between 2012 to 2016, according to TeleGeography. They recognize the need to be where the subsea cables terminate to get the direct, many-to-many global connectivity that enables them to provide their customers with private and proximate connections to the Internet ecosystems that grow around it.

Every global business is now required to collaborate with partners instantly, across oceans, and meet user expectations for high-performance connectivity anytime, anywhere. This is not possible with conventional IT architectures where data is transmitted via lower latency networks and across distant, centralized corporate data centers. Subsea cables are the only option for extending businesses globally.

The global economy is quickly taking shape and every business is considering new growth strategies. Those that eliminate geographic boundaries and allow for the elegant movement of data across new paths such as MAREA and BRUSA to access new markets will be successful. Those that do not will be left behind.

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Virginia was recently named one of the top 10 “Most Innovative States” by WalletHub, in addition to several other accolades. The online financial service also ranked Virginia first in projected STEM-job demand by 2020, second in the highest share of technology companies, third in the fastest average internet speed and fifth in the highest share of STEM professionals.

The state of Virginia’s overall innovation index score is 61.87, putting it seventh on the list before the index scores drop to the 50s with Utah and Delaware, ranked eighth and ninth, respectively.

Virginia was also ranked third for human capital. The state has the second highest concentration of tech workers per capita in the United States and over 44,000 employees in the professional, scientific and technical services industries.

Greater Richmond alone holds almost 9,500 enrolled students in IT programs. With nearly 30 colleges and universities, and high schools such as CodeRVA, focused on preparing students at early ages for careers in computer science and coding, the region produces a large and educated workforce.

Greater Richmond is ultimately no stranger to innovation. The region is home to over 2,400 information technology firms, including GE, Allianz Global Assistance, Facebook, Ippon Technologies and Mobelux.

Read more about innovation in Greater Richmond here.

Companies with shared corporate services have seen many benefits from locating in the Richmond, Virginia, Region. The region’s middle-market quality of life and affordability are two outstanding reasons for employers to relocate operations from more expensive metropolitan areas.

Middle Office and Shared Service operations

Last year, the Greater Richmond Partnership commissioned the Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting Group, one of the nation’s top site location consultant companies, to complete an analysis on how Greater Richmond stacked up against peer competitors for the suitability of a ‘middle office’ operation. The data showed that the Richmond Region bested its East Coast competitors, including Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Nashville, Tenn.

Several companies decide to escape the high real estate cost of the nation’s capital by locating a shared services office two hours south in Greater Richmond:

  • Capital One operates its corporate campus in the region, with 11,000 local employees
  • CoStar’s research division was moved to the area, ramping up to 600 employees in less than 12 months
  • ICMA-RC opened a backup headquarters location in the city’s downtown

Download the Middle Office Whitepaper

Research & Development

Research and Development (R&D) centers are popular in the area:

  • WestRock testing its newest packaging equipment at a local research and development facility
  • Hamilton Beach teams of engineers, designers, and consumer research and marketing specialists
  • The Altria Center for Research and Technology anchors the Virginia Bio+Tech Park

From a consumer perspective, the Richmond Region serves as a popular test market. Since the region’s demographics and personal perspectives fairly represents American consumers as a whole, several food chains and technology companies have chosen the region for soft roll-outs prior to national launches. Capital One recently introduced its new café concept in the Richmond market.

Data Centers

Several companies have located data centers in the region, including Capital One, QTS, Peak10 and Bank of America.

However, with the installation of the MAREA and BRUSA subsea cable systems, the region’s becoming an even more desirable location. The eastern half of the region has quick access to the connection point in Virginia Beach before the cable reaches Europe and South America.

Facebook is the latest to take advantage of the region’s new connection points. The company is constructing three new 500,000 square-foot buildings with a planned total square footage to over 2.4 million square feet. The multi-billion-dollar project will run solely on renewable energy.

Call center operations

Richmond is a magnet for client engagement centers due to the congenial and available workforce.

Owens & Minor, Elephant Auto Insurance, Teleperformance, Minacs and LendUp have all opened customer management centers in the area recently. Dominion Energy and Wells Fargo have also operated long-standing call centers with continued workforce recruitment success.

Learn more about the region's advantages for corporate services

Virtual and augmented reality technology is booming in the Richmond Region and companies are searching for innovative ways to introduce the medium into our everyday lives. Richmond offers an active VR/AR community with several technology developers already in-market. In fact, Richmond was named as a Top 10 Affordable Tech Hubs by

Local VR/AR companies include:

  • DevSoft Digital delivers custom solutions in augmented and virtual realities, AI and machine learning, BLE and IoT
  • ARtGlass‘s wearable AR guides visitors on interactive journeys through United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization sites
  • Unboxed Technology develops VR educational simulations for employee training
  • Shockoe, a mobile development company bringing AR to apps
  • VArtisans creates 360-degree immersive experiences and environs
  • Media Plural specializes in spatial audio, the non-visual portion of immersive media

Experts at Startup Virginia, hosted in the 1717 Innovation Center, are mentoring these entrepreneurial companies:

  • Root Virtual Reality is leveraging the power of immersion and embodiment to revolutionize the social care system
  • Ario is a AR productivity platform that increases safety and efficiency in manufacturing facilities

The pipeline for VR/AR developers starts at Virginia Commonwealth University, located in the heart of Richmond. VCU offers the Modern Heuristics Research Group Virtual Reality Lab which features 3-D touch and motion capture devices to support interactive visual data mining, personnel training in safe environment, and education and rehabilitation. One of the features of the lab is a 3-D touch and feedback device which allows tactile feeling, including devices and software that let users feel bumpy, magnetic and molasses-like objects.

A recent project includes a group of medical students using augmented reality for surgery and data visualization. The surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support, Dan Tang, M.D., and his team recently donned headsets to prepare for two surgeries, one to mend a central portion of the heart and the other to repair leaks around two artificial valves.

The local chapter of the VR/AR Association hosts quarterly panel discussions and Virtual Reality RVA Meetup hosts monthly events. Product developers, investors, entrepreneurs and other interested parties meet and connect with like-minded people.