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State Leaders Appointed to Semiconductor Alliance Steering Committee

By Jessica Pointer – April 22, 2024 – The Virginia Alliance for Semiconductor Technology (VAST) announces the appointment of four government and industry leaders to its steering committee. Joe Benevento, Swanka Burnette, Sean Mallon, and Raul “Danny” Vargas bring a wealth of expertise and experience to VAST, reinforcing its commitment to advancing semiconductor technology in the region and beyond.

"These distinguished leaders that have been appointed to the VAST steering committee are vital to achieving VAST's mission,” said Caren Merrick, Virginia secretary of commerce and trade. “Their expertise and dedication underscore Virginia's commitment to innovation and growth in the semiconductor industry. Through collaborative efforts like VAST, we are poised to propel Virginia forward as a hub of semiconductor innovation, driving economic prosperity and technological advancement for our commonwealth."

Joe Benevento, Virginia’s deputy secretary of commerce and trade, has a proven track record of driving innovation and fostering strategic partnerships and will be invaluable in guiding VAST toward achieving its objectives.

"I am excited to join the VAST steering committee alongside esteemed colleagues. Together, we will leverage our collective knowledge and experience to guide VAST in its mission to advance semiconductor technology in Virginia and beyond,” said Benevento. “With a focus on innovation, collaboration, and strategic partnerships, we aim to position Virginia at the forefront of semiconductor innovation, driving economic growth and opportunity for our communities."

Swanka Burnette, business manager for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), brings more than a decade of business development experience to the committee. As a vocal advocate for education, Burnette’s appointment underscores VAST’s dedication to growing the semiconductor industry’s workforce.

"It is an honor and privilege to tell the Virginia story for semiconductor industry and general technical innovation,” said Burnette. “It helps that it’s a compelling story. VEDP couldn't be more excited about the potential of our collaboration with VAST. Economic growth benefits all and VAST/VEDP are well positioned to move the semiconductor industry forward within the commonwealth."

Sean Mallon, vice president of commercialization at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), will bring expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship that will be invaluable to the committee. Mallon’s contributions will significantly amplify VAST’s efforts in advancing semiconductor research and development initiatives across Virginia.

“VIPC is proud to support VAST in its efforts to advance semiconductor initiatives in Virginia,” said Mallon. “Our shared missions and partnership will help turn Virginia into a friendly environment for semiconductor, microelectronics, and nanotechnology startups.”

Danny Vargas, founder and president of the marketing and communications firm Varcom Solutions and chairman of GO Virginia’s Region 7 Council, brings a unique perspective to the VAST steering committee and will draw from his experience in government affairs and public policy. His deep understanding of legislative processes and advocacy will further strengthen VAST’s engagement with policymakers and stakeholders, facilitating the organization’s mission to promote semiconductor innovation and growth in the region.

“Northern Virginia has long been recognized for its prominence in the technology sector and it is fitting that our region takes this important step in establishing Virginia as a leader in nanomanufacturing,” said Vargas. “The VAST program positions us for continued growth in this sector in the future and will have a positive impact on creating a variety of jobs at various levels and thus improving the lives of many families for years to come.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Joe, Swanka, Sean, and Danny to the VAST steering committee,” said Masoud Agah, VAST’s founding and executive director. “Their collective expertise, leadership, and passion for economic development will be instrumental in shaping the VAST ecosystem and ensuring resources for its sustainability and growth.”

The Virginia Alliance of Semiconductor Technology is a collaborative initiative aimed at fostering innovation, research, and workforce development in the semiconductor industry within the Commonwealth of Virginia. VAST seeks to accelerate technological advancements and drive economic growth in the region by bringing together industry, academia, and government stakeholders.

For more information about VAST and its initiatives, please visit

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