A graphic representing cybersecurity

Cyber Security Sector

The global cyber security market continues to grow towards the $200 billion mark globally. Harrisonburg seeks to capitalize on this explosive growth by continuing to develop the cyber security sector in the city.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is already at the heart of the cyber security sector. Virginia ranks second in the total number of people employed in cyber security.

Building upon the advantage that Virginia offers, Harrisonburg is creating a cyber security eco-system that contains a sustainable workforce, partnerships with education, quality infrastructure, support from the government and interaction amongst peers in the industry.

To launch the creation of Harrisonburg’s Strategic Plan to grow the cyber security sector in the city, Harrisonburg Economic Development (HED) and James Madison University partnered to host a cyber security forum. HED sought industry input on the cybersecurity eco-system and assets necessary to grow the sector.

The day-long, robust discussion provided feedback to HED on how best to position the city to attract and grow cybersecurity companies. The discussion included the infrastructure needs, workforce credential needs and student education needs of industry, as well as potential economic development incentives and best marketing practices to build a successful cybersecurity eco-system. To learn more visit the Cyber Security Forum page.

With grant funds from the state, the city of Harrisonburg partnered with the city of Waynesboro and Blue Ridge Community College to develop a cyber security training program to produce the next generation of talent in the Shenandoah Valley. The program includes a security review course, CompTIA Security+ Exam, Cybrary online training, and on-the-job training. A local corporate partner will be providing on-the-job training in Harrisonburg and Waynesboro.

Logo for Valley TechCon 23

The inaugural Valley TechCon was held in September, 2018. The conference brought together technology enthusiasts, practitioners, researchers, and business leaders to facilitate idea sharing, collaboration, and innovation. Sessions covered a broad spectrum of topics from autonomous vehicles to artificial intelligence. The goal of Valley TechCon is to inspire new ideas, improve business efficiency with emerging technologies, springboard new ventures, and expand networking opportunities. TechCon was also held in fall 2019 and spring 2023. For more details, visit www.valleytechcon.com.

Harrisonburg is preparing tomorrow’s cyber security warriors beginning in the K-12 system.  Harrisonburg High School has hosted cyber security camps as part of Virginia’s CyberCamp program.  The primary purpose of the CyberCamp program was to increase awareness of careers in cybersecurity and inform students about the vast opportunities in the workplace. Harrisonburg has also held trainings for educators in cyber security to better prepare our students for a career in cyber security.  

Massanutten Technical Center (MTC) is leading the way in producing a cyber security talent pipeline for high school and night students. MTC built the nation’s first Education Security Operations Center to offer simulated training to high school students. This is addition to their robust Cyber Security class offerings. 

Harrisonburg High School’s STEM Academy is one of twenty-two Governor’s STEM Academies in the state of Virginia and one of only two that exist formed by students exclusively from a single high school.  Harrisonburg High School utilizes two competitive pathways within the HHS Governor’s STEM Academy: the Mathematics and Science Pathway (the first Governor’s STEM Academy to have such a pathway) and the Technology and Engineering Pathway.

Harrisonburg enjoys six educational institutions ready to collaborate in developing a cyber security workforce:

  • James Madison University
  • Eastern Mennonite University
  • Bridgewater College
  • Blue Ridge Community College
  • American National University
  • Massanutten Technical Center

James Madison University offers cyber security related degrees, including Intelligence Analysis, undergraduate and graduate programs in Computer Science, and an Information Security MBA through the College of Business.  JMU is designated as a center of academic excellence for information assurance by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College both offer Computer Science bachelor degrees. 

Blue Ridge Community College launched a cyber security training program in partnership with Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Virginia and private industry. The program includes a security review course, CompTIA Security+ Exam, Cybrary online training, and on-the-job training. Blue Ridge also offers a cyber security career studies certificate as part of their Associate in Applied Science Degree in Information Systems Technology.  A

The Commonwealth of Virginia is committed to enhancing cyber security education in the state’s colleges, universities and high schools through the Virginia Cyber Range initiative.  The Cyber Range will provide an extensive courseware repository for educators and a cloud-hosted environment for hands-on cybersecurity labs and exercises for students. Dr. Edna Reid, JMU professor and member of the Harrisonburg Economic Development Advisory Board, is a member of the Executive Committee of the Virginia Cyber Range.

Cyber security is a priority target sector for the City of Harrisonburg and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The city and state offer incentives to attract and grow cyber security companies in Harrisonburg.  Companies can take advantage of tax/fee exemptions by locating in one of Harrisonburg’s Technology Zones.  For companies in the government contracting space, Harrisonburg is home to a HUB Zone.

Virginia offers a variety of incentives that may assist cyber security companies including the Commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund, the Economic Development Loan Fund and the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.  A full list of state incentives can be found on the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s website.

The entrepreneurial spirit of Harrisonburg is evident in the home grown businesses and supportive business partners in the city.  Entrepreneurs can tap into expertise and assistance from a variety of groups, including:

From tech luncheons to our Entrepreneurial Spark Speaker Series, there are many ways to connect, learn and be inspired along your entrepreneurial journey.

In Harrisonburg, companies can enjoy interacting directly with the local colleges and universities to help shape their future workforce. Companies can tap into a pipeline of talent and not have to worry about hemorrhaging employees to their competition across the street. Here, companies benefit from a reliable, committed and sustainable workforce.

Additionally, the Commonwealth of Virginia, proving its commitment to the cyber security sector, offers several workforce development initiatives:

  • The New Economy Workforce Credential initiative – The fund provides grants covering two-thirds of the tuition for students who are enrolled in a workforce training program designed to fill in-demand jobs, such as cyber security. The state pays a third of the costs when students complete the program and make the final payment when they receive a certificate or license. Students are responsible for the remaining share of the cost.
  • Cyber Security Apprenticeships – Virginia created three new registered apprenticeships in cyber security that include Information Security Analyst-Cyber Security Analyst, Information Security Analyst-Computer Forensics Analyst, and Information Security Analyst-Incident Response Analyst. Administered by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Registered Apprenticeships combine on-the-job learning with classroom-related instruction. The program provides fiscal incentives of up to $1,000 a year for related instruction costs. Companies hiring IT or cybersecurity apprentices are eligible for the incentive.
  • Virginia Community College System Incumbent Workforce Credentialing Program – The industry recognized certifications and occupational licenses to be provided by the program will help incumbent workers stay employed and progress in their careers.  The new initiative supports the Governor’s goal of having Virginians attain 50,000 STEM-H workforce credentials a year by the end of the administration.
  • Cyber Vets Virginia – Cyber Vets provides veterans with access to cyber security training opportunities and resources to help veterans enter the Virginia cyber security workforce.

For more information about the cyber security sector assets of Harrisonburg, contact Peirce Macgill, Assistant Director for Harrisonburg Economic Development, at (540) 432-7701 or peirce.macgill@harrisonburgva.gov.