LATech@NCRP: 10 years in the making

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(Ed.’s Note: This piece was originally posted on the Louisiana Tech President Guice’s Blog)

Ten years ago this month, the Bossier community began to develop plans for the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC) and National Cyber Research Park (NCRP) in anticipation of the establishment of the USAF Cyber Command at Barksdale Air Force Base. Everyone recognized the potential impacts such a federal investment could have on our community and state.  The Bossier community, with additional state support, immediately began investing in infrastructure such as the CIC building. The CIC leadership, led by Craig Spohn, began to develop a bold plan to capitalize upon the expected changes at Barksdale. It was recognized that there could be significant opportunities for growth of the technology sector in the region and that would have broad implications for economic development and opportunities for all of our citizens.  But it was also recognized that success would require further improvements in the region – in education, infrastructure, amenities, etc.

It was also recognized that a national research university was an essential part of the equation, and we have been involved in those plans from the very beginning. Tech’s faculty immediately secured competitive state and university funding to establish a Center for Secure Cyberspace and hired some faculty that could enhance our cyber research and education programs. Louisiana Tech’s faculty worked closely with the CIC in developing cyber camps and cyber curricula for k-12 students and teachers. We also spent a lot of time developing relationships with corporate and government entities that had interests in cyber technology and the cyber workforce. Our faculty developed novel academic programs in Information Assurance and Cyber Engineering while continuing to do cyber-related research that had commercial and defense applications.

Despite the ultimate decision by the federal government to place Cyber Command in  the DC area, the CIC leadership continued their focus on building relationships and securing crucial funding for facilities and projects related to cyber and defense technologies. And our political delegation was able to secure a major new mission for Barksdale AFB with the establishment of the Global Strike Command, a mission that requires many of the same types of support systems that the community had been developing at the NCRP and Louisiana Tech.

Because of the investments in our cyber workforce and infrastructure, some advanced technology companies began to emerge in Bossier City, Ruston and Monroe. The most significant of those was CSRA (formerly CSC) and its establishment of the Integrated Technology Center in the NCRP, bringing more than 800 advanced technology jobs to the Bossier community. Louisiana Tech played an important role in that company’s decision to come to Louisiana, and we have maintained a very strong partnership with them since that time. CSRA established an Internet-of-Things laboratory, known as TechX, inside our Tech Pointe facility as a way to provide our students and faculty with ready access to the latest and greatest cyber tools. And many of our students are getting internships and jobs with CSRA (and other companies) and that is spurring further growth of our cyber student body and stimulating interests of other companies in coming to the region.

LATech@NCRP: 10 years in the making and now a reality….On Wednesday of this week, we convened a large number of people from Louisiana Tech and the Bossier community for a check presentation by the AEP Foundation, led by Tech alumnus Nick Akins, for the establishment of a Cyber Training Center in the new Academic Success Center we are building inside Bossier Parish Community College’s newest building, a STEM building that is actually located in the NCRP.  The CIC offered that space to Tech because of the important role that we are playing in supporting the development of cyber education, research, workforce and related activities. And we secured private funds to develop this space that will serve as a hub for Tech in the Bossier community. We are excited about the future opportunities this affords our institution, including some dual programs with BPCC, and we are confident that the long-term impacts on our region will be great. We are grateful for the confidence and support that the Bossier City, Bossier Parish and CIC leadership have placed in us. I must acknowledge the tremendous leadership role that CIC President Craig Spohn has played in the development of all of these activities over the past decade. This simply could not have happened without his vision, commitment and tenacity. And I am deeply grateful for the efforts of VP Stan Napper and so many of our faculty and staff who have dedicated their time and energy over the past decade to make this a reality.

Dr. Les Guice is President of Louisiana Tech University