A proposed facility for testing unmanned vehicles in York County was not included in the first round of projects approved for Go Virginia funding, but the regional head of Go Virginia thinks the project can get funding with some additions to the proposal.
The unmanned systems facility proposal requests $150,000, which participating localities would have to match. The $300,000 total from the state and localities would cover preliminary work and studies for the project before potentially coming back to purchase the land.
The state Go Virginia Board wanted more information but was supportive of aspects of the idea, according to Jim Spore.
Go Virginia has about $10.9 million available to distribute across the state’s nine regions. The maximum amount a region can get is based on its population. Hampton Roads, which is Region 5, is eligible for up to $2.2 million.
Approvals are made on a rolling basis, so Region 5 can resubmit at the state board’s February meeting.
Spore said the state committee wants firmer information on approval from surrounding properties, businesses that would participate and occupy space and buying or leasing the land from the state.
Jim Noel, director of York’s Economic Development Authority, said he planned to shore up information from the FAA and a potential agreement with the state for the land. He would also like to see if he could get localities to agree to enter a proposed regional authority that would have them plan to invest in the facility.
The proposed testing facility site is a 192-acre state fuel farm off Penniman Road and southwest of the Naval Supply Center. The land is now unused and is an approved Federal Aviation Administration fly zone. It’s surrounded by 241 acres that Noel said could be used as an industrial park for businesses using the test site.
The primary focus of the proposal is businesses, including air, ground and water vehicles. But a drone park for hobbyists is also part of the proposal, hoping to tap into a recreation and tourism niche.
Spore said the state board reacted positively to the revenue-sharing model, which would let the localities that invest in building the facility share the revenue. Spore felt that was a system that could be replicated for other projects.
The state board considered 12 proposals at its December meeting where it made its first round of approvals. Region 5 submitted five proposals, and two were approved — a digital shipbuilding program, and a cybersecurity lab, both at Old Dominion University.
The two approved projects were fully funded for a total of about $1.29 million.
Also approved were three projects in Northern Virginia, two focused on technology workforce development and another for a fabrication laboratory.
Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692. Follow him on Twitter @jdauzreyes.
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