WXXI AM News

Rochester Wins Photonics Institute

Jul 22, 2015

Credit University of Rochester

Rochester has won a major federal designation that officials say should provide a big economic boost for this region and much of  Upstate New York.

Although the official announcement hasn't been made yet, word is that Rochester has won a nationwide competition for an Institute for Manufacturing Innovation, focusing on the field of photonics, which involves the use of light and optics, such as lasers, in a number of applications including internet networks.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter had said the decision was imminent and that the project would bring $110 million  in Federal money into the area. She previously has said that New York State would commit $250 million toward the project.

On Wednesday, Senator Charles Schumer issued a statement saying that the announcement firmly "puts the region on the map as one of the global leaders in photonics and manufacturing." Schumer says the institute will boost New York manufacturing, connect Rochester area students to potential future employers and bring good-paying manufacturing jobs to Upstate NY.

Slaughter issued a statement saying that for more than three years she has been leading the region's effort to convince the White House to create the photonics institute and build it in Rochester. She says she "won't be celebrating until an official announcement is made by the Department of Defense." Slaughter says she looks forward to sharing more details in the days ahead.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also issued a statement saying that the investment "underscores Rocheser and the surrounding region's unique potential to be a national center for research and development."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren says the photonics institute will work "in perfect synergy" with other projects now underway, such as the Bloomberg Innovation team and the IBM Smarter Cities designation.

Tom Battley heads up New York Photonics which represents about 100 area photonics companies in the Finger Lakes and he says they are just giddy about the possibilities with this project.

"I can easily picture this investment resulting in new companies moving here, new companies opening offices here, and more employment here. It will be our challenge to grow the talent .“

He also told WXXI News that " for this kind of investment in a leading edge technology to be made by probably the most demanding user in America, the DOD (Department of Defense), is a huge vote of confidence."

The Rochester proposal involves partnership between SUNY, the University of Rochester, RIT and industry and academic leaders. It was competing against proposals from the University of Central Florida and the University of Southern California.