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Fairmont chosen for $553 million NOAA program


The Exponent Telegram

FAIRMONT, W.Va.  — Fairmont is one of three cities in the nation selected as a work site for a proposed $553 million contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

NOAA’s equipment is stored in the basement of the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center, one of the many high-technology facilities located in the I-79 Technology Park.
(File photo)

The contract would be for systems integration services to support NOAA’s Research and Development High Performance Computing & Communications infrastructure.

According to a draft request for proposal, obtained by The Exponent Telegram, the project would help NOAA acquire high-performance computing (HPC) equipment, advance target architecture, maximize acquisition efficiency and advance environmental science.

A NOAA facility in the Robert H Mollohan Research Facility in the I-79 Technology Park is home to one of the nation’s most vital supercomputers, needed for the new project.

That’s according to Bertram Torrejon, a NOAA Strategic Sourcing Acquisition Division contract specialist.

“This facility houses the Theia HPC system, which is part of the overall requirement,” Torrejon said in an email.

NOAA representatives predict the proposal, still in its draft stage, will be ready in September, with bidding to begin soon after.

The Fairmont facility, along with ones in Princeton, New Jersey, and Boulder, Colorado, is where the work will take place, with each facility to be used for the duration of the contract.

“This is a perfect example of what we’re trying to achieve,” High Tech Foundation President and CEO Jim Estep said. “We get this here, and they do this level of contracting. This is for the entire agency, so there are pieces of it in different places, but by far the NOAA Environmental Security Computing Center is one of the centerpieces of that.”

The High Tech Foundation manages the Robert H. Mollohan Research Facility, as well as other properties in the I-79 Tech Park in Fairmont.

The high-performance computing system first came to Fairmont in 2010 and supports the development of climate and weather model predictions, which in turn allows NOAA to develop more accurate models and provide stronger forecasting abilities.

Estep said in July that more than 100 companies visited NOAA’s HPC facility in Fairmont for an Industry Day during which companies interested in bidding on the work could come and ask questions.

Estep said the continued investment from federal agencies like NOAA will only help grow the Fairmont area, bringing additional companies, both big and small, to the region.

“Part of what we’re trying to do here is recruit these federal operations to our community so that they will do contracting and will attract the kind of companies that we want to have to our community,” he said. “It’ll fill the anchor model, in other words. By getting NOAA’s environmental computing center here, companies will want to provide services to NOAA to help them with that, so now we have companies participating in the community because they want to participate in the contract activity.”

Estep also said that when the proposed contract is finally put into effect, it will be another testament to the continued growth of North Central West Virginia’s technology sector.

“The hope is that this will ultimately lead to the expansion of the existing Environmental Security Computing Center and the high-performance computing programs,” he said. “It’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to achieve. They recruit this operation here and build it. When they do this kind of contracting, it makes companies want to be here.”

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