It is not every day a global IT company makes a large investment in rural America. Southern Virginia, however, has benefited from multiple investments by Microsoft since 2010. Mid-Atlantic Broadband (MBC), a 501(c)4 non-profit open-access middle mile fiber provider, with a mission of economic development leadership for Southern Virginia, has been a key partner to Microsoft in this region since the beginning. What started with MBC enabling open access fiber connectivity to the Microsoft data center in Mecklenburg County has grown and transformed into a partnership between MBC and Microsoft TechSpark to promote digital skills and employability through the creation of the SOVA Innovation Hub.
In August 2010, Microsoft announced the largest economic investment in the history of Southern Virginia—they would invest $499 million to locate their Gen4 data center in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. They needed a powerful fiber connection, and Mid-Atlantic Broadband’s (www.mbc-va.com) open-access fiber optic network was up to the task. Cited as a key component in Microsoft’s decision to locate in Mecklenburg County, MBC provided Microsoft the access they required to diverse, high capacity, low latency routes for connectivity from the data center to major carrier interconnection points throughout the eastern United States.
Since 2010, Microsoft has expanded their Mecklenburg data center several times, and MBC has continued to support fiber connectivity to the growing facility. In 2015, MBC and Microsoft supported the formation of the IT Academy at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) to boost the pipeline of qualified data center employees. The SVHEC IT Academy was duplicated at Southside Virginia Community College and then became the model for Microsoft Data Center Academies worldwide.
THE SOVA INNOVATION HUB
In April 2019, another partnership between MBC and Microsoft was conceived through an initiative called Microsoft TechSpark. Microsoft TechSpark fosters job creation and economic opportunity in seven North American communities by promoting digital skills and employability, increasing access to broadband, and helping local organizations thrive. The SOVA Innovation Hub was announced as the signature project for TechSpark Southern Virginia.
The SOVA Innovation Hub is a non-profit organization created to spark economic transformation in Southern Virginia by inspiring people to pursue digital careers and entrepreneurship by bringing together business and education partners to offer innovative programs.