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Virginia Counting on New Supercomputer to Boost Economy

Noblis, a nonprofit science, technology and strategy organization, plans to put a Cray supercomputer in Danville, Va., with help from state government.

by / June 17, 2011

Virginia plans to partner with a nonprofit to open a research center that will house a supercomputer — claimed to be the first Cray XMT not connected to a U.S. federal agency lab or university.

The center is scheduled to open this fall in an existing warehouse in Danville, Va. Officials expect the project to create new jobs over a three-year span.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Thursday, June 16, that Noblis — a nonprofit science, technology and strategy organization — will establish the Center for Applied High Performance Computing, which will house the Cray supercomputer.

“This kind of high-performance technology research center is truly transformational for
the city of Danville and the commonwealth of Virginia,” McDonnell said in a statement. “It will serve as a training center for the next generation of developers who will build new high-performance computing applications.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Danville to secure the project. Officials hope the center will help attract high-tech companies. According to Suzanne West, the partnership’s communications manager, the supercomputer will be used for researching and creating complicated algorithms.

“It solves needle-in-the-haystack kind of problems,” she said.

Through the center’s agreement, some small businesses and researchers in Danville will be given access to the supercomputer, and the center will provide a training ground for high-performance computing, said Laury Sendek, a Noblis spokesperson.

To fund the multi-million dollar project, Noblis and Cray Inc. plan to invest $2.5 million int the project. On top of that funding, McDonnell approved a $1 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved an additional $3 million grant, according to the governor’s office.

West said establishing the center in Danville — located in southern Virginia — will help the city recover economically. The region is distressed.

“In general, it helps large and — particularly — small businesses that haven’t had this kind of access before,” West said. “It’s going to help smaller companies in southern Virginia access what even some larger companies can’t.”

The center is anticipated to create 15 jobs, all of which will be pay nearly four times the prevailing wage in Danville, West said.

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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