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History: Beginnings of the KnowledgeWay
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For additional information about the KnowledgeWay including past events, speeches and letters, please visit the KnowledgeWay archives.

The Potomac KnowledgeWay Project was created by several Northern Virginia organizations and their leaders in response to the need for a vision for Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington area as a global leader in the rapidly expanding area of network-enabled information products, services and applications. Its original focus on economic development has expanded to consider how all sectors of the region can adapt to and succeed in the Knowledge Age. Similarly, the scope of the KnowledgeWay Project has been broadened to encompass the entire Potomac region, while still maintaining its initial focus in Northern Virginia.

The vision was initially presented to Northern Virginia Roundtable members on September 29, 1994, by Mario Morino, Chairman of the Morino Institute, in the form of a proposal for the creation of a Networked-based Information Products and Services Industry in the region. Housed and supported by George Mason University, the Roundtable is a compact of area business leaders that work together to identify and support public policies and investments which will enhance the long term economic stability and growth of Northern Virginia.

The origin of the concept was Mario Morino’s research through the Morino Institute’s community and educational pursuits and his direct contact as an investor and advisor for emerging high technology businesses. The resulting product, however, comes from the work of the Northern Virginia Roundtable’s Focal Industries Committee which is chartered to develop the long-term strategy for core industries in the region, particularly in the information technology and communications sectors. This work was the collaborative result of April Young (Treasurer of the Roundtable), Ed Bersoff (President and CEO of BTG, Inc. and Co-Chair of the Focal Industries Committee) and Roger Stough (Associate Director of George Mason University’s TIPP - The Institute for Public Policy). Of particular benefit, was the research published by TIPP’s Center for Regional Analysis. Accepted virtually from its inception, Young and Bersoff undertook to further delineate what this vision might entail.

On February 23, 1995, the expanded vision was again presented to the Roundtable as a proposal to create an initiative provisionally named the Northern Virginia Project, an educational and facilitation effort to "establish the region as the global leader in the creation, development, and delivery of information products and intellectual services." As presented, that would have five goals:

- To create the "Learning Region";

- To promote the region’s information and technology resources;

- To coalesce civic entrepreneurs around the vision;

- To fuel innovation and entrepreneurial growth; and

- To increase the flow of funding for area businesses and institutions.

The reaction to this presentation was extremely positive. The Roundtable approved formation of the Project as an organization that would operate independent of the Northern Virginia Roundtable, but one in which the Roundtable would remain a partner.

Critical to the initiative’s early momentum was the leadership demonstrated by Robert Templin, newly appointed President of Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT). On the day following this presentation, Templin, Morino and Young, along with Dave O’Donnell, representing Opportunity Virginia, forged the first partnership with the Northern Virginia Project, with CIT committing a challenge investment of $150,000. Qualification for this challenge was that the project had to be industry-led and support from the business community must be forthcoming. CIT would match business contributions at a rate of one dollar for every two raised by the Project from regional businesses. More important still was the agreement by CIT and the KnowledgeWay Project to work as partners in developing the KnowledgeWay as one of CIT’s major investments in Northern Virginia.

With this milestone achieved, leaders of several organizations agreed to move forward on an ambitious plan to incorporate and further the vision. These Founding Partners included: the Century Club of George Mason University, George Mason University, the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Advisory Council for Northern Virginia, the Morino Institute, Northern Virginia Community College, the Northern Virginia Roundtable, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and the Virginia Technology Council.

A third milestone event occurred with the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) first annual membership meeting on April 24, 1995. That afternoon, over 800 people heard Mario Morino and Roger Stough combine to deliver a presentation that portrayed the strengths and potential of Northern Virginia. The afternoon message was reinforced that evening in keynote addresses by Steve Case, CEO of America Online, and Dan Bannister, CEO of DynCorp and the Chairman of NVTC. It was a turning point in many ways, from the large turnout, to the energy displayed, to the enthusiasm of those who attended. The following day the Washington Post carried a front-page story on the KnolwedgeWay Project and, clearly, a movement was underway in the region.

May through October of 1995 was the KnowledgeWay Project’s formative period. In June the Project was formally launched with its incorporation, establishment of the Board of Directors and election of officers. The Board held its organizational meeting on June 3, 1995. Shortly thereafter, an effort was underway to secure the $300,000 in seed funding needed to match the CIT challenge investment. Meanwhile, the story of the KnowledgeWay Project continued to spread through a series of presentations.

By mid-July the first collateral on the KnowledgeWay Project was developed and sent to over 600 contacts. From that time until the KnowledgeWay Project’s re-launch at the end of October, 1995, a number of key developments were completed.

One of the important developments was the decision to formally broaden the scope of the KnowledgeWay Project to include not just Northern Virginia but the entire Potomac region, and to reflect that inclusive view in an identity for the region and final name for the Project. It had always been part of the KnowledgeWay Project's original premise that we would focus our early efforts in Northern Virginia and then reach out to work in the broader region. It is a view consistent with how we are seen globally and builds upon the diverse yet related strengths that can help the entire region and all of its communities benefit.

Thanks to a collaborative effort involving more than 75 educational, business, and community leaders (and scores more from outside the region), we evolved a new name to better reflect both our region and the potential we have for leadership: The Potomac KnowledgeWay Project.

reflects our geographical location, encompassing Northern Virginia, Suburban Maryland, Howard County, Maryland, and the District of Columbia
highlights our key strengths in the use of technology and the creation of information products
illustrates our vibrant flow of innovation, entrepreneurship, and activity

Almost six months to the day of the NVTC membership event, at a dinner sponsored by the Capital Availability Committee of the Northern Virginia Roundtable, a new video introduced The Potomac KnowledgeWay. The video illustrated the enormous concentration of energy, high technology businesses, labs and research centers that make this region one of the knowledge centers of the world. The meeting, which was attended by a number of venture and investment firms as well as scores of new emerging businesses in the region, marked the beginning of the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project’s operational phase.

On November 6, 1995 a mailing entitled "New Name. Same Mission" was sent to over 1,900 contacts in the region to introduce The Potomac KnowledgeWay Project. It explained the KnowledgeWay Project’s mission which had been refined over months of interviews, discussion and collaborative interchange, and announced that the KnowledgeWay Project had secured pledges to achieve its goal of $500,000 in seed funding.

The time has brought us to the horizon of executing on the vision.

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