The sprawling facility that houses the National Cybersecurity Center, Space ISAC and Exponential Impact is set for a huge injection of cash and a 31,000-square-foot buildout, thanks to a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant of almost $3 million.

UCCS and the NCC developed the proposal together (with UCCS as the lead) in December, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the $2.75 million grant today. Construction is expected to be under way by January 2021.

“The EDA grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $2.75 million in local funds and is expected to create 360 jobs and attract more than $9.3 million in private investment,” the U.S. Department of Commerce announcement said.

The planned expansion at the North Nevada Avenue cybersecurity building includes offices and classrooms, along with a Cyber Vulnerability Lab and a Watch Center that will be part of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

Space ISAC, the nation’s only space-dedicated information sharing and analysis center, is based at the NCC.  

NCC CEO Vance Brown said the matching $2.75 million has already been committed, and the total $5.2 million injection “puts a stake in the ground” for Colorado Springs’ cyber reputation.

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“It’s a huge win,” Brown said.

“For Colorado Springs, the cybersecurity ecosystem has now grown,” he added. “We had a dream of UCCS and industry, government, education being all together in a common building. 

“For UCCS to actually be able to have some of their faculty there in the building doing classes — think of the collaboration and serendipitous communication going on, and now having the space to do more intentional things. With that momentum, I think we’re over that tipping point of that building being a true cyber center.”

UCCS Senior Director of Development Thomas Dewar, who led the grant effort, described the process as a “wonderful” community partnership. 

“This expansion would not have been possible without this EDA grant but more than that, this was very much a community-driven effort,” Dewar said. “The EDA grant requires a $1 for $1 match. So the $2.75 million — we had to match that before we could apply. It’s sort of ‘backwards fundraising.’”

The matching $2.75 million was secured from El Pomar Foundation, Anschutz Foundation and the Lane Foundation. 

Along with building out the UCCS cybersecurity building, UCCS will grow its cybersecurity faculty as well as degree and certificate programs, Dewar said. 

“Cybersecurity will have its own standalone home where we can really focus on it,” he said.

“We have about 700 students right now in computer science, which incorporates cybersecurity, and we expect that will grow to about 1,000 in two to three years — and ramp up from there,” he added.

UCCS has also hired Gretchen Bliss as its new director of cybersecurity. She took up the position April 1. 

Formerly cybersecurity lead at Pikes Peak Community College, Bliss “has an amazing military and cybersecurity education background,” Dewar said, “and we are thrilled to have her in our lead Cybersecurity organization role.”

Dewar said construction should start no later than January 1, 2021, “and the big hope is that the space is ready for students and faculty to occupy by August 15 [2021].” 

Classrooms, labs and faculty offices will be finished first, to match spring semester timing. 

Space ISAC construction will follow as quickly as possible, “but that’s not bound by something like school having to start on a certain date,” Dewar said. 

Brown said the buildout is a game changer for Space ISAC, which so far counts Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Booz Allen Hamilton, MITRE, SES, Lockheed Martin, Purdue University and Parsons Corporation among its founding members.

“Wow, to have those caliber of companies participating in a watch center and vulnerability lab right there in that building in Colorado Springs — they’ll have representatives here as part of that — this changes things, absolutely,” Brown said. “This establishes a permanent home for the activities that we’re doing as far as Space ISAC.”

The expansion will be a major boost to cybersecurity collaboration in Colorado Springs, Brown said.

“Think about it: We’ve got Ph.D. cyber professionals hanging out with the NCC and all the intern programs we’re doing — and our accelerator/incubator,” he said. “There’ll be more and more intentional things that we’ll do now that we have space to do them in, but even the serendipitous communication now can be exponential in terms of ideas and collaboration. Having people there now together is very exciting.

“The whole dream is of having an ecosystem — of UCCS representing education, NCC representing that public-private thing that we do, Exponential Impact with innovative technologies coming into the area,” he said. “All of us will be able to do more classroom training, education, workforce development in that classroom and office space — that is a huge addition.”

“This project will allow the University of Colorado to make upgrades to its cybersecurity center to allow new companies in the cybersecurity industry to grow and diversify the Colorado Springs economy,” said Dana Gartzke, whose title is performing the delegated duties of the assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, in the commerce department’s announcement. “The project’s location in an Opportunity Zone will attract additional businesses in an area of the state that needs it most.”

This story has been updated. 

 

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