Photonics HQ Discussions Continue; Two Major Players Say They Are Working Together

Aug 18, 2015

Credit PBS.org

The ongoing saga about where a headquarters for the new photonics institute will be located continued on Tuesday. In one of the latest statements, there seems to some efforts at conciliation.

That statement was issued jointly by the SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. It says the two leaders share an unwavering commitment to establishing the headquarters for the photonics initiative in Downtown Rochester.

The statement doesn't specify a location. Seligman and some local leaders favor the Sibley Building, while others prefer Legacy Tower, the former Bausch and Lomb building. The statement also says the two leaders will continue to work together to identify additional facilities in the Finger Lakes.

The Photonics Institute involves an investment of about $600 million and local officials hope it will eventually create several thousand jobs.

On Monday night, SUNY Poly and some local business leaders said that Legacy Tower had been chosen. But Seligman and others later said that wasn’t a done deal.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon with WXXI News before the joint statement with Kaloyeros was released, Seligman indicated that one of his biggest frustrations was a lack of discussion with SUNY Polytech officials about how the new photonics operation will be set up.

"Do understand that the position of the University of Rochester and other leaders in Rochester has consistently been we're willing to sit down and talk about this and analyze this together, this is not the right time for lone rangers."

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter issued a statement saying that decisions regarding the photonics facilities need to be made in Rochester. Slaughter, who like Seligman, favors the Sibley Building, says that she worked for three years to achieve the photonics location for Rochester and she says they will not be deterred by what she calls "one man's ego." 

Mark Peterson, President of Greater Rochester Enterprise, expressed hope that area officials can cooperate, saying that, “ In the end, we’re all Rochesterians , we’re all going to come together, we’re going to find a good path and this is going to be a huge success for the community.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told reporters the city has an investment in the Sibley Building, so for that reason, that would be her location of choice. But she can also support Legacy Tower.

"So, I don't want to get caught up in location. I want to make sure that the federal government understands that we would like this institute built in our downtown."

Earlier on Tuesday, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle told WXXI News that he found it startling that the head of SUNY Polytechnic would try to dictate the terms surrounding the location of  the photonics headquarters in Rochester. But later in the day, Morelle issued a statement saying that he applauds Governor Cuomo, the University of Rochester and SUNY Poly for returning the focus to a collaborative implementation of the initiative.

The issue is expected to be discussed Wednesday at a regular meeting of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.