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Biometrics facility to locate in Clarksburg

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- City leaders received some good news for a change on Tuesday.

Downtown Clarksburg will soon see an increase of up to 75 jobs when an interim Biometrics Fusion Center facility opens on Main Street.

The Department of Defense has signed a lease with local property owner and former county commissioner Tom Keeley to put the facility in his building located at 347 W. Main St.

"This is a bright spot in the city after some recent bad news," said Mayor Terry Greaver, referring to Dominion's plans to move 70 positions to Virginia.

"This just goes to show that our United States senators are looking after the cities in their home state."

The contract is for a three-year lease with two additional one-year options. The office is expected to open June 1 and will supplement the two other BFC test and evaluation facilities that are currently located at Harrison-Marion Regional Airport. The annual rent is estimated at $456,750.

"In a struggling economy, not only in Clarksburg but across the country, could this have happened at a better time for our downtown and our city?" asked Councilman Patsy Trecost.

"This is such a nice shot in the arm," he said.

The 29,870-square-foot facility will include a state-of-the-art demonstration center and a testing and evaluation laboratory space.

The demonstration center, which will be open by appointment only to federal customers, will focus on the benefits of biometrics, highlight the Biometrics Enterprise Solution and explain how biometrics is used in the areas of information assurance, physical access and tactical applications.

The permanent Biometrics facility is planned for the FBI complex and projected to begin in 2006. When complete, the permanent site will house 150-175 jobs, infuse between $18-$20 million into the state's economy annually and open the door for new private-sector investments.

The Army-administered center tests high-end commercial identification software for military applications, such as biometric "smart cards" that could be used to limit access to defense networks and facilities. Biometrics is the science of using bodily characteristics such as fingerprints or iris patterns for identification purposes.

One of the reasons Clarksburg was chosen as the permanent home for the center is the growing high-tech and biometrics presence already evident in the area.

The FBI fingerprint center is the largest biometrics repository in the world, and West Virginia University is home to a prominent biometrics and forensic identification program.

In related news, the Department of Defense's Biometrics Management Office, in conjunction with West Virginia University, has developed a Graduate Certificate Program in Information Assurance and Biometrics. The program is designed to provide students with a solid understanding of biometrics, security system principles and their scientific foundation.

This graduate level 15 credit hour certificate program, offered within WVU's College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, is a precursor for students to enter into the masters program.

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com