Nanotechnology Graduate Center Would Transform Manassas, Western Prince William
MANASSAS, Va. — Manassas officials, officials with George Mason University, and Delegate Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) are in talks with BAE Systems to convert a soon-to-be-closed fabrication plant into a Nanotechnology Science Center.
The move comes as BAE Systems plans to close its Semiconductor Technology Center on its sprawling Manassas campus early next month. The company told Potomac Local News it will outsource its manufacturing of semiconductor chips produced locally and transition to a “fab-less” production model. It is the only portion of the BAE facility that will close.
“Our Manassas facility will continue to provide advanced radiation-hardened electronics and subsystems to the space community,” stated BAE spokeswoman Liz Ryan Sax in an email.
The last microchips produced at the Manassas facility are expected to roll off the production line in early January.
Local officials have moved in and have urged the company to consider allowing the space to be converted into a graduate school for Nanotechnology studies.
Negotiations are in the very early stages but officials say the prospect of such a center could change the face of western Prince William County, and the facility itself could rival Purdue University.
“To have a world-class research institute and have engineering grad students from all over the country, if not all over the world, to come to Manassas do their studies, and the type of offshoot business it could bring to Manassas and Prince William County, you can’t figure out where the ceiling would be for something like this when it comes to economic development,” said Miller.
George Mason University declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations. The university does offer Nanotechnology studies as part of its graduate program.
More universities both in Virginia and the U.S. would most likely be asked to become involved with the project. Some tax breaks at the state level would be considered for BAE Systems as part of the deal. A decision on the project could come as early as springtime, added Miller.
“…we’re currently working with a number of parties to finalize the company’s plans to disposition the STC’s many manufacturing assets,” stated Sax.
For it to work, a stakeholder model similar to the Freedom Center, where Prince William County, Manassas, and George Mason University banded together to fund the popular fitness and aquatic center, would also be explored in this case.
“This has some great upside possibilities of what might happen with this facility if we can come together and make it work,” said Manassas City Manager Patrick Pate. “…it would require a good partnership, like many of the things we do with Prince William County and George Mason; there were would be some great benefits for the region.”
BAE Systems in Manassas is located in Prince William County’s technology corridor that also includes Micron, a company that also manufactures data chips.
Nearby, George Mason University’s Prince William Campus sits at the center of the Innovation Technology Research Park. In 2007, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly abandoned a half-completed manufacturing plant that was going to bring 350 jobs to the park.
Today, Prince William County Economic Development officials continue to market
Innovation as a center for commerce. The FBI’s Northern Virginia Resident Agency, Virginia Department of Forensic Science, Powerloft Data Center, Comcast, and a joint laboratory shared by George Mason University and the National Institutes of Health are all tenants at the Innovation Park.