Leaders in southwestern Illinois last month launched the Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence, a non-profit organization formed to address unprecedented needs in the cybersecurity labor market being projected by local military, financial, healthcare, government and law enforcement agencies.
The center’s top priority will be workforce development, especially in connection with the growing “cyber footprint” at Scott Air Force Base, which in December will start serving as the home for two newly created Air Force cybersecurity squadrons, according to a press release from the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois.
A recent report assessing the region’s cybersecurity workforce needs found that “while other centers of excellence exist on both coasts, there is nothing comparable in the Midwest, and the conditions here are not only favorable to such an endeavor, they demand it,” said Mike Riley, president of the Leadership Council.
Surging demand for cybersecurity workers across the board “poses challenges in filling existing positions and also threatens to derail the growth of the cybersecurity industry, which is a potentially significant creator of jobs,” Riley said. “With the creation of the new Midwest Cyber Security Center of Excellence, we plan to eliminate this problem altogether,” he said.
The Leadership council — a regional economic development organization — established the center of excellence with partners from Southwestern Illinois College, Webster University, the Aegis Strategies Foundation, and leaders from St. Clair County and Scott.
The center’s headquarters will be housed at Aegis, which is located near the entrance to Scott.
St. Clair County is hoping the new center helps attract the new western headquarters the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is planning to build to replace its existing facility in south St. Louis. The agency is considering four sites in the St. Louis region, including a 182-acre tract near Scott.
The presence of the center for excellence near the proposed site is “certainly not going to hurt” the county’s chances for luring the NGA campus to Scott, Terry Beach, St. Clair economic development director, told the Belleville News-Democrat. “It’s going to be an asset.”
NGA plans to announce the location of its new home by March 2016, with construction on the $1.6 billion facility set to begin in early 2017. The new facility is expected to open by 2021 and generate 3,100 jobs.