Senator Jay Rockefeller today greeted hundreds of industry leaders, government officials, investors and educators to tout West Virginia's growing biometrics sector.
Rockefeller, along with the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation, the I-79 Development Council and the West Virginia Development Office, launched the West Virginia Biometrics Forensics Seminar and Expo five years ago to spark investment and job growth in the state's biometric industry.
"I'm excited to see how this event has grown," Rockefeller said. "When I started it, I knew that once companies came to see what West Virginia had to offer that they would invest in our state. It was just a matter of putting the pieces together and getting everyone in the same room.
Biometrics are physical characteristics or personal behavioral traits used for identification. The public and private sector, as well as higher education institutions, are involved in biometrics research and application to help safeguard the public and protect individuals' identities.
"Today, West Virginia's biometrics industry has produced jobs, economic development, public-private partnerships, research and future careers for generations of West Virginians to come," Rockefeller said. "And we're only getting started. Our private sector is flourishing, with world-class biometric companies doing business in West Virginia, and our public universities are responding to the industry's needs with cutting-edge research and development. The time is ripe for new companies to come to West Virginia and see what we have to offer."
Marshall University and West Virginia University have renowned biometrics and forensics programs, and several private companies are working within the industry, including Azimuth, Inc. in Morgantown and the Lockheed-Martin Biometric Experimentation and Advanced Concepts (BEACON) Center in White Hall, among others.
Rockefeller is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and a long time advocate of high-tech investment. He believes programs that strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the best path forward for West Virginia's economic future.
"It is one of my priorities to make sure that our state continues leading the world in biometric research, development and implementation," Rockefeller said. "Partnerships among agencies in federal and state governments, along with universities and the private sector, will determine the potential of the biometrics industry in West Virginia."
West Virginia is recognized as a world leader in biometrics. Rockefeller has led efforts to build and sustain federal biometrics facilities in West Virginia, including:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) Division in Clarksburg, a 2,600-employee facility responsible for several major FBI programs whose mission includes reducing terrorist and criminal activities. The mission is accomplished, in part, through managing the world's largest database of criminal fingerprints. The FBI CJIS is currently upgrading its database to a new system--the Next Generation Identification (NextGen) System--to provide law enforcement with significantly faster matching services at increased accuracy and to add other biometrics identifiers on a phased basis.
The Department of Defense's (DOD) Biometrics Identity Management Agency (BIMA) in Clarksburg, which coordinates biometrics activities for the military and employs 150 personnel in Clarksburg and Fairmont.
Joint FBI-DOD Biometrics Technology Center. Last year, Rockefeller participated in a ceremony celebrating the $328 million facility currently under construction on the FBI-CJIS campus. When completed in 2014, the facility will enable FBI and DOD partners to make new collaborative advances in biometrics technology, further strengthening the state's reputation as a world leader in biometrics.