Prince William County lawmakers plan to lure blossoming life sciences companies to the area, with 9,000 feet of new wet lab space in Innovation Technology Park in Manassas.
Prince William County Science Accelerator, launched in late 2012, is a facility designed to be built out based on the needs of the companies that use it.
Accelerator targets small companies that work within the life sciences, among other things, officials with the Prince William County Department of Economic Development said in December.
The facility is already being marketing and has attracted several interested companies, said Brent Heavner, marketing and research manager for Prince William County Department of Economic Development
The companies would enter into an agreement with the county, which now holds the master lease on the space for five years at a cost of about $235,000 monthly, according to the department of economic development.
The two companies and the county will share the cost of building out the space for interested tenants and recoup the costs by charging licensing fees.
Virginia Biotechnology Association CEO Jeffrey Gallagher called the facility "an incredible resource."
"The Prince William Science Accelerator enhances Northern Virginia's competitiveness as a location for the life sciences by delivering much-needed wet lab space and a fertile environment in which companies can grow," he said in a statement.
Prince William County leaders have been discussing the idea of an accelerator for about two years, but the project really gained momentum after a 2012 life sciences market study highlighted the need for that type of space in the region, said Heavner.
The word "accelerator" was added to the name of the project for several reasons, he said.
"Foremost, we believe that this facility will catalyze new and faster growth of the county's already robust life sciences business community," Heavner said.
Additionally, the goal is for the partnership to accelerate the growth of the small companies as well as the rate of private development of this type of commercial space, he said.
The county is well suited for emerging life sciences companies because it is home to established ones such as the FBI Northern Virginia Resident Agency and the Corning Life Sciences companies ATCC and Mediatech, said Jeffrey A. Kaczmarek, executive director of Prince William County’s Department of Economic Development.
The Prince William County campus of George Mason University is a center for research in proteomics, bioinformatics and bio defense, he said.
"This new facility is an exciting step forward for Prince William County," Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. "Prince William County has been a location of choice for life sciences companies for nearly two-decades, and this unique facility demonstrates our continued commitment to the biosciences industry."
That industry is expected to be one of the key job-growth generators for the next generation, Stewart added.