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Cybersecurity Industry at Heart of Colorado Springs’ Economic Plan

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce hopes to build on the cybersecurity and military assets already in place with the help of a federal grant.

by Wayne Heilman, The Gazette / October 16, 2017
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(TNS) -- The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC is developing a plan to grow the local cybersecurity industry as part of a federal grant awarded this year to help those leaving the military with cyber skills find jobs.

The plan is designed to be a road map to attract cybersecurity startups and companies already providing cybersecurity services to the Colorado Springs area, in part, by taking advantage of a pool of talent that is leaving military service, said Vinnie Persichetti. He is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant with cybersecurity experience recently hired by the chamber as its director of cybersecurity programs.

The grant also is funding a study of the estimated 600 people a month leaving military service or military contractor jobs to determine their cybersecurity skills, training and certifications.

"We want to inform the community about this untapped cybersecurity workforce," Persichetti said. "If employers are aware that training programs exist here and military personnel are transitioning out with at least some basic (cybersecurity) skills, we hope those companies will take advantage of those personnel and add to their skills."

The study and plan are expected to be a major part of a new website that will be linked to the chamber's site and designed to help attract cybersecurity employers to the Colorado Springs area. The study, plan and website are expected to be completed late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2018 and are paid for with about two-thirds of an $890,000 grant from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment awarded to Pikes Peak Community College to get its cybersecurity program certified by the National Security Agency.

"This is about job creation and job growth. These are high-skill, high-wage jobs that have significant economic impact," said Dan Spector, co-founder and principal of Simon Everett, an Arlington, Va., research firm hired by the chamber to help complete the study and plan after completing a similar study and plan this year for the state of Kentucky that was financed by a grant from the same federal agency.

"Colorado Springs is already recognized as a leading hub for cybersecurity professionals," Spector said. "We want to raise the profile of Colorado Springs nationally."

The plan will analyze the area's competitive position in the cybersecurity industry, focusing on military and government operations already based here as well as academic programs to train students to work in the industry and identify area businesses that provide such services and what they need to grow, Spector said.

A key strength for the area is that the Air Force Academy, Colorado Technical University, Regis University (which has a local campus) and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs have NSA certified cybersecurity education programs and PPCC is seeking such certification, he said.

To participate in the cybersecurity study or plan, email Persichetti at vpersichetti@cscedc.com.

©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.