Microsoft is continuing its work to address the rural technology divide in Southern Virginia, announcing Monday that it will open a high-tech community space in Halifax County.
The two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, called the SOVA Innovation Hub, will be the first new building constructed in downtown South Boston in more than 40 years, the company said Monday.
Microsoft has paid special attention to the region for years, first in 2017 with an experimental wireless internet network aimed at expanding broadband access to places it had never gone before.
That initiative is still ongoing, and now one of the largest technology companies in the world will also have a physical footprint nearby.
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation, a nonprofit broadband provider, is a partner on the project.
MBC will pay around $5 million for construction of the new building and will move its headquarters to the second floor. Microsoft, meanwhile, will take over the first floor and will be responsible for programming in the community space.
“It’s a wonderful partnership,” MBC CEO Tad Deriso said. “We can fund the bricks and mortar and then Microsoft really takes it to the next level with their investment in the programming piece.”
The innovation hub will have co-working space, individual offices available for rent, event space for Microsoft workshops and a lab where the community can demo the technology giant’s latest gadgets.
Microsoft has these kinds of hubs all across the country, but typically only in major cities.
“We in little old Southern Virginia will be able to take advantage of that,” Deriso said. “That’s going to be some really exciting stuff.”
Deriso added that MBC is already working on building planning. The land purchase is expected to close next month, construction will begin soon after and the space will be open for business sometime next year.
“It’s one thing building a building, but it’s another thing building it with Microsoft as a partner,” he said.