Government Contractor Opens Office at UVa Research Park

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When corporations consider where to open new offices, it all comes down to location.

For TASC — a government contractor for defense, intelligence and other federal agencies and Albemarle County’s most recent resident — it’s about location of its clients, location of its research collaborators at the University of Virginia and proximity of its offices to its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

The $1.6 billion company opened its three-person unit in the University of Virginia Research Park this week. Founded in 1966, the high-tech communications and intelligence company has 5,000 employees in 38 locations around the world with plans of hiring 1,300 more in the next two years.

“With the relocation of the Defense Intelligence Agency to the area and the proximity of [the National Ground Intelligence Center] and numerous contractors, it’s really the place we need to be,” said Albert A. Pisani, vice president of intelligence operations for TASC. “People are realizing what a great place the Charlottesville area is. For us it’s close to our clients, close to the university and far enough from Washington, yet close enough to go there when we need to.”

TASC joins an increasing number of defense and intelligence contractors that have settled in Charlottesville, from SAIC and NIITEK to BAE Systems and Battelle.

The sector has grown enough that the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce has organized a group comprised of defense contractors.

Many of the contractors serve as go-betweens for federal agencies analyzing data and intelligence while others are involved in developing hardware, including sensors and communications equipment, software programs and honing techniques of gathering information. Some, including TASC, work on each level.

“We don’t sell equipment to our clients, we provide expertise in solving problems by finding what’s available and researching alternatives,” said Kurt H. Mangels, TASC program director.

In one application, TASC has helped pull together software and hardware providers to develop equipment that helps military and civilian reconnaissance teams gather information from remote areas using sensors, software, computers, low-voltage power sources and communications equipment.

The equipment is constantly being researched and refined, said Donald M. Harrison Jr., director of strategic planning for TASC’s local office.

“The object is to find ways to do it better, quicker and safer,” he said. “We’re always looking for improvement and alternatives.”

Some of that comes from research at the university level and others from engineers from a variety of disciplines, from electrical to mechanical, TASC officials said.

TASC officials said one reason they like the Albemarle County location is that there is a good selection of trained engineers available from the school. It also allows them to tap into faculty expertise in resolving issues and developing new techniques and technologies.

“Our relationship to UVa is a very important aspect of our deciding to locate here, besides being close to the clients,” Pisani said. “There are new technologies being developed that will keep us ahead of the game.”

The relationship is good for the university as well. The university recently created the UVa Applied Research Institute at the research park to provide better cooperation among contractors, agencies and university researchers and obtain contracts for research and development.

“We have faculty that are doing research in many of the same areas that they are working,” said James H. Aylor, UVa engineering school dean. “In Charlottesville, we’ve been isolated from corporate America in many ways and having these firms nearby opens the doors to our faculty, to new research possibilities and to our students.”

For TASC, having the researchers nearby and a pool of well-trained potential candidates in the university’s graduates makes locating in the area a win-win situation.

“Our concern is with our mission, our tasks and finding ways to provide what our clients need,” Pisani said. “We’ve been in business for 44 years so we’re obviously doing the right things.”

By Bryan McKenzie | Daily Progress

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