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Modeling, simulation and visualization activities account for more than 4,000 jobs and annually contribute more than $413 million in regional economic output, according to an economic impact analysis conducted by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

Co-sponsored by Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), the analysis provides an overall view of the rapidly expanding modeling, simulation and visualization industry in Hampton Roads and identifies emerging opportunities as well as gaps and weaknesses for area leaders.

"Over the last few years, Hampton Roads has experienced rapid growth in the number of local firms doing modeling and simulation," noted John Whaley, deputy executive director of economics for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. "This growth is especially noteworthy given the high wages paid by these companies. These high paying jobs are sorely needed by our economy, which has historically paid wages below the national average. Based upon all the evidence we have, we believe this rapidly growing segment of our economy will continue to generate good jobs for our region for many years to come."

According to Whaley, the survey examined the number of area firms conducting modeling and simulation work, the number of people employed and the wages paid. The information was used to model the impact on the economy, including the activities of the firms and all of the other economic activities generated through the firms' local spending. A five-year projection of impacts was made for all years from 2004 to 2009.

The survey found that government, contractor and commercial organizations conducting modeling, simulation and visualization business in the Hampton Roads region have created 4,023 jobs. Total annual wages are more than $99 million, with the average industry salary being $59,721. With a total economic output of $412.9 million and $248 million net to the gross regional product, the industry provides $24 million in state revenue and $9 million in local government revenue.
Looking forward to 2009, the modeling, simulation and visualization business within Hampton Roads is expected to grow dramatically. Based on growth rates identified during the survey, total output is expected to exceed $763 million, with gross regional product exceeding $481 million (calculated in 2004 dollars).

The report identified emerging opportunities in the industry on which the region can capitalize. Transportation/urban planning, medical, homeland defense and security, aerospace, environmental, and education are all areas where simulation technology is beginning to grow.

The survey also acknowledged some key gaps and weaknesses in the regional modeling, simulation and visualization industry, including the need for more modeling and simulation professionals, a further expansion of academic education and high school curriculum, industry training, and more local vendors. Additionally, the report noted that regional transportation issues were limiting the ability to attract personnel and that state and local governments need to work to draw more non-Department of Defense activities.

Lastly, the report makes a series of recommendations for area leaders to further promote the modeling, simulation and visualization industry within the region. The study co-sponsors and local area leaders will explore these recommendations as part of an ongoing effort to continue the growth of the regional modeling, simulation and visualization industry.

"Old Dominion University and VMASC are uniquely positioned to support the educational and research needs of this rapidly-growing segment of the Hampton Roads' economy," said R. Bowen Loftin, executive director of VMASC and professor of engineering at ODU. "Our graduate programs in modeling and simulation, together with our highly successful research activities in this field are and will continue to be an essential component of the region's government and industrial modeling and simulation enterprise."

In addition to VMASC, the economic impact analysis was co-sponsored by Boeing, Booz-Allen-Hamilton, BMH Associates Inc., DDL Omni Engineering, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, Peninsula Alliance for Economic Development and the cities of Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.

This article was posted on: December 6, 2004

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