By Stefanie Jackson – Congresswoman Elaine Luria visited the Eastern Shore last week, and her first stop was in Exmore at theGIG coworking and entrepreneurial center, where members have had reliable access to broadband internet and worked remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luria met GIG member Joseph Andrews, the vice president of 3D printing for NCS Technologies, a Northern Virginia company that counts among its clients several federal agencies, the intelligence community, and the military.
Andrews and fellow GIG member Joseph Betit are collaborating with Northampton County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski to explore the possibility of starting a 3D printing prototype and training center at the former Northampton Middle School in Machipongo.
3D printing is a technologically advanced type of manufacturing that can be done anywhere, including rural areas.
The Eastern Shore is a logical place to locate a 3D printing business, with the NASA Wallops Flight Facility to the north and the Hampton Roads industrial sector to the south, Andrews said.
Luria met Sharon Scannell, director of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Virginia Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (VWIEC), which is considering a partnership with theGIG to introduce VWIEC programs to the Eastern Shore.
VWIEC is an entity of Hampton University and was established in October 2020 through a $17.7 million Department of Education Reimagine Workforce Preparation grant.
VWIEC is working on behalf of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development to help current and new entrepreneurs succeed and contribute to Virginia’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VWIEC’s goal is to assist at least 3,000 participants whose work was impacted by COVID-19. VWIEC plans to help entrepreneurs fortify existing businesses or start new ones and assist people who became unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to start businesses.
Patrick Coady, of the Eastern Shore Foundation and GO Virginia, discussed the need for additional workforce training to support the deployment of broadband on the Eastern Shore.
The meeting concluded with Luria acknowledging the need for more workforce training and commenting on the state of unemployment; Virginia’s unemployment rate fell slightly from 5.3% to 5.2% in February.