GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) has been named the state’s fifth “Cyber Range Hub,” an initiative aimed at bolstering the Michigan’s cybersecurity defenses.
The Grand Rapids nonprofit career training and after-school program will host the Cyber Range Hub at its new offices located near the intersection of Bridge Street and Seward Avenue, west of downtown. Business leaders in the area say the emergence of an incubator focused on cybersecurity could pay economic dividends down the road.
“The establishment (of the) WMCAT Cyber Hub in Grand Rapids is an exciting development for our region,” Eric Icard, senior business development manager at Grand Rapids economic development organization The Right Place Inc., said in a statement. “This is the first cyber range of its kind to be established in West Michigan, and this critical piece of infrastructure will be a strategically important asset for our growing technology, aerospace, defense and automotive industries.”
The state’s existing Cyber Range Hubs are located in Battle Creek, Sterling Heights, Pinckney Community High School, Wayne State University and at the Detroit Arsenal. The cybersecurity initiative is funded by the Michigan Defense Center, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Merit Network Inc., an Ann Arbor-based education and research organization for cybersecurity.
WMCAT President and CEO Daniel Williams said that by hosting the Cyber Range at its offices, the nonprofit can help grow the cyber defense industry in the West Michigan region and provide new career training opportunities for its students and the broader community.
“This will be a place where the cyber security sector can advance their skills, test products, and network,” Williams said in a statement. “It will also be a place where community members can explore the cyber security field, sharpen their skills and prepare for new careers with opportunity for growth. We are proud to contribute to diversifying and growing the talent pipeline here in West Michigan.”
In 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder launched the “Protect and Grow” initiative aimed at bolstering the state’s capabilities in the defense sector. Between 2014 and 2016 employment in Michigan’s defense industry grew 2.8 percent and the sector’s economic impact hit $9.72 billion, an increase of 7.4 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Michigan Defense Center, which administers the Protect and Grow initiative.
“In Governor Snyder’s Protect & Grow initiative, the Michigan Defense Center is executing against one of the key objectives, which is to lead the nation in Department of Defense/State Cyber Operations Integration,” stated Sean Carlson, executive director of the Michigan Defense Center. “The State of Michigan is without a doubt one of the leaders nationwide when it comes to integrating both the state and federal government in cyber operations. The opening of this sixth cyber range in Grand Rapids is just another example of Michigan leadership and dedication to making cybersecurity a priority.”