National Cybersecurity Center (copy)

The outside of the new building that is home to the National Cybersecurity Center and Exponential Impact cybersecurity accelerator in 2018 in Colorado Springs. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs received a $2.75 million federal grant Monday to renovate the building. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette)

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has received a $2.75 million federal grant to expand and renovate a building on North Nevada Avenue that's home to the National Cybersecurity Center.

The project will allow the school to triple enrollment in its cybersecurity degree programs and provide space for the center to expand its space-related programs. The expansion is just the latest in a series of initiatives in recent years to cement Colorado Springs as a cybersecurity hub; the local information security industry to grow by 50% during the past four years.

The grant is "critical for boosting the industry and innovation in our region," U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, said in a news release from the U.S. Commerce Department.

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The grant from the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration will be matched with grants from El Pomar Foundation, the Anschutz Foundation and the John and Margaret Lane Foundation. The $5.5 million will be used to build four classrooms, four labs, four conference rooms, faculty offices and a study area for students as well as a lab and other facilities for the NCC's Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center, created last year to reduce the vulnerability of spacecraft and satellites to cyberattacks.

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John Dewar, senior director of development for UCCS, said design of the 37,000 square feet of space is already underway with construction scheduled to begin by Jan. 1. He said the additional space is expected to be ready for use by students and faculty by the end of 2021 and will allow the school to boost its cybersecurity enrollment from about 200 to between 500 and 600 students. UCCS will try to raise another $1.5 million for equipment and furniture needed for the new space, he said.

The grant will allow UCCS "to make upgrades to its cybersecurity center to allow new companies in the cybersecurity industry to grow and diversify the Colorado Springs economy," Dana Gartzke, acting assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said in the news release from the Commerce Department.

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The grant is expected to create 360 jobs and attract more than $9.3 million in private investments, the release said. That is the estimated hiring over the next few years by the 130 cybersecurity-related companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the Colorado Springs area and the amount those organizations plan to spend on training, equipment and office space for those employees, Dewar said.

Since the building is in a federal opportunity zone, any entity making an investment in the project is eligible for federal tax benefits — they can delay and reduce capital-gains taxes on other investments. The opportunity zone program was part of a 2017 tax cut.

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"Especially with the economic challenge posed by the coronavirus, it's important that Opportunity Zone investments continue, and we should look for ways to accelerate the deployment of Opportunity Zone capital in every corner of Colorado," U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said in the release.

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The state-funded National Cybersecurity Center and the affiliated Exponential Impact accelerator lease part of the 135,000-square-foot building at 3650 N. Nevada Ave. from UCCS for its programs on education, government and business. UCCS has plans to build out classrooms, a lecture hall and other space for the cybersecurity center in the rest of the building during the next three to five years, but needs to raise up to $18 million to complete that work, Dewar said.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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