Utica’s Future in Nanotechnology

Author:  Mark

Forces/Drivers:  Nano-Tech Center, Brain Drain

Scenario A & B

Newspaper Article

In 2009, New York State along with partners and universities announced a plan to bring the nanotechnology industry to central New York.  The plan involved development of two facilities to be built in Albany and Marcy, New York.  New York State partnered with IBM, Intel, and SEMATECH to fund the 225 million dollar project.  The facility in Albany, NY will be responsible for research and development of the nanotechnology “system on a chip” product.  The facility in Marcy, New York will be held at SUNYIT and focus around integration of technologies, testing, and evaluation of the chips.  The development of this state of the art facility has created a huge buzz around the Utica-Rome area, as a potential to re-vitalize the area that took a huge hit when many Radio Frequency electronic jobs left the area back in 1990s and early 2000s.  The question on whether the project will spark a re-vitalization of economic growth or have no significant impact on the declining economic trends has yet to be answered.

The nanotechnology project’s Marcy facility development could be the spark that the Utica-Rome area has been looking for since the Griffiss Air Force Base downsized its footprint in the area and many other technology companies closed their doors.  The Mohawk Valley (MV) Edge group owns a 400-acre property across from the land on SUNYIT’s campus where the nanotechnology buildings are being built.  The MVEdge group has been attempting to attract business partners (like chip suppliers and other major nanotechnology contractors).  A number of companies have started to make a presence known already with Indium Corporation, Valutek, and nfrastructure investing in positions at the SUNYIT location.  If MVEdge were successful in bringing other business partners into the area, would provide a strong foundation for a new technology face in the area.  The Griffiss Business Park could provide a strong location for additional business development, with a lot of space available and the Oneida County airport utilizing the runways and hangers left available after the Air Force downsize. The Air Force still has a footprint in Rome, NY with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) still residing on the base.  The AFRL could also become a strong business partner for the nanotechnology center, if appropriate, which could also attract major defense contractors back to this area.  As part of the project a curriculum is being developed at SUNYIT and SUNY Albany to help educate young professionals on nanotechnology and help them obtain a job after they graduate.  The success of this technology center would help to keep local youth in the area, something that the Utica has been suffering from for an extended period of time.  If the nanotechnology center is able to attract business to area, young professionals from outside the area might also be interested in moving to the central NY region. The development of these facilities and potentially new facilities of other interested businesses would also help the local construction businesses as well.  Many of them would see a spike in business and the potential for hiring new employees with skillsets. Local schools will also see a spike in jobs with more teachers being required to meet in the influx of family members to nanotechnology workers.

The nanotechnology center could also just fall into an isolated technology business where it holds it’s own but does not attract any other interest from the nanotechnology community.  If other businesses fail to become interested in having a close proximity then a small subset of jobs would have been created but not enough to grow the area and stop the export of young, talented professionals. Economic Development Departments in the Utica-Rome area would be left to determine other opportunities to grow the area but an excellent opportunity would have been wasted. There could be major delays in the process of developing the nanotechnology centers, such as funding cuts, construction delays, or technology roadmap alterations (the interest in nanotechnology subsides due to other technology development). With the economic climate being as dreary as it is, many businesses are not dedicating funds to expansion or new development.  Nothing is a sure thing in this economy and businesses could decide that there are higher priorities and decide to back out of interest in the nanotechnology center. If the nanotechnology center were to be halted and/or cut from future development, that would cost between 400-500 immediate impact jobs and would crush the chances of drawing other nanotechnology style businesses into the area.  Young, talented nanotechnology professionals would be forced to search other locations for jobs.  Economic developers would be left scrambling in an attempt to figure out how else to spark economic growth in the area.

Any number of paths can be taken with the future of the nanotechnology center project.  While all indicators point towards a successful development of the center and surrounding environment, nothing is ever guaranteed.  While the future remains uncertain, the development of the nanotechnology project has certain created a lot of positive buzz around a community that has been suffering for years.  The nanotechnology project has provided a positive path forward, now it is up to the local community to make sure the path is traveled.  Once known as the “RF Valley”, the Utica-Rome area is working overtime to show that it has everything it takes to be the “Nano Valley” of the future.

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