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Sterling Heights — Businesses are getting access to a new, secure computer lab that’s part of an effort to hone software and train specialists in cyberdefense.

The Velocity Hub in Sterling Heights is linked to the Michigan Cyber Range, offering a place for training and exercises to simulate data hacks and test the effectiveness of software or networks for defense contractors, the auto industry and other businesses.

The lab is a place for businesses to work securely and should help boost collaboration between companies, the state and others on cybersecurity, said Jennifer Tisdale, cyberprogram manager for the defense and auto offices of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“This is an opportunity for us as a state to educate industry on what is coming and what they can do,” Tisdale said.

The lab opened Friday at the Velocity Collaboration Center, a business incubator on 18 Mile. It’s expected to serve as a resource for companies developing connected and autonomous driving technologies, as well as showcasing job opportunities in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity awareness is on the rise,” said Larry Herriman, interim executive director of the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator. “As the Internet continues to evolve, the security of commerce becomes more and more significant. This issue has been, and will continue to be, a problem for anyone conducting business via the Internet to address.”

The lab is isolated from the rest of the Velocity center as part of an effort to keep the center’s technology secure. Those going to work in the lab must leave their cellphones behind, Tisdale said, and what goes on inside is designed to stay secret.

“We know that cybersecurity will continue to be a pressing topic as technology use continues to expand and change,” Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor said. “Now, Sterling Heights, Macomb County and the state of Michigan are home to this valuable business resource we believe will attract tech developers to the area.”

Similar training centers are planned in other parts of the state, Tisdale said.

The Michigan Cyber Range is operated by Ann Arbor-based nonprofit Merit Network and offers a secure environment for cybersecurity education, training and testing. Oakland University, Macomb County, Sterling Heights and the New Economy Initiative are among others involved in the new lab.

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