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Upstate New York Tech Hub Wins $40 Million Federal Investment

Original Article by the Buffalo News

The upstate New York “tech hub” between Buffalo and Syracuse will receive $40 million in federal funding in an attempt to make the region home to a reborn American microchip industry.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who authored the legislation creating the federal tech hubs and who pushed hard for the upstate bid to receive funding, was set to announce the funding Tuesday in visits to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. In an interview prior to the official announcement, Schumer said he was ecstatic that out of about 400 original tech hub bids, the upstate bid will be one of only 12 to receive significant federal funding.

“This isn’t just a national spotlight on upstate New York,” said Schumer, a New York Democrat. “This is the federal government saying that the I-90 corridor is America’s semiconductor superhighway.”

The funding follows an announcement last October that the upstate bid would be one of 31 tech hubs authorized under the CHIPS and Science Act, Schumer’s landmark 2022 law that aims to “reshore” the semiconductor industry.

But not all 31 of those tech hubs will be getting federal money to make investments aimed at bolstering the tech sector in those communities. The upstate bid won money, Schumer said, because it stood out against the competition.

Upstate New York’s workforce, along with the fact that microchip companies already have started moving to the region, contributed to the bid’s success, he said. So did the fact that Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse decided to bid together for a tech hub rather than compete against each other.

“There were so many good things here,” Schumer said.

The joint nature of the bid calls on each community to take the lead on a different aspect of the plan to bolster the region’s tech industry:

  • The University at Buffalo will take the lead in an effort to improve the microchip supply chain, as it aims to link existing semiconductor suppliers in the region with new customers and help other manufacturers enter the microchip business.
  • Monroe Community College in Rochester will lead a workforce training effort that’s charged with preparing 11,500 workers for a series of jobs ranging from processing technicians to electricians to engineers and software developers.
  • Syracuse University will develop a commercialization effort that strives to help small, midsized and minority-owned companies bring their semiconductor-related products to the market.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, a senior Biden administration official who asked not to be identified by name said the upstate New York tech hub won funding primarily because the microchip industry was already growing in the region. The funding announcement comes 21 months after Micron Technology, a leading microchip producer announced plans to invest upwards of $100 billion to build a manufacturing campus north of Syracuse.

The White House official also indicated that Buffalo’s role in the tech hub will be especially important.

“The focus here is on enabling the supply chain for semiconductor manufacturing to also grow within the region,” the White House source said.

Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said none of this would have happened if Schumer hadn’t proposed and then fought for legislation creating the federal tech hub program.

“This moment marks a turning point for our region, presenting significant economic opportunities for all,” Gallagher said. “The consortium of 100 partners across industry, education and philanthropy, along with bipartisan support from our federal officials, made today a reality. This is just the beginning of our effort to transform the economics of Western and Central New York.”

Rep. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, agreed that the effort – officially named the NY SMART I-Corridor Consortium Tech Hub – will revitalize the region.

“The NY SMART I-Corridor Consortium Tech Hub will pave the way for us to once again lead the country forward into a new age of supply chain independence, technological innovation and entrepreneurship,” Kennedy said. “With our strong transportation system, network of research universities and diverse workforce, the I-Corridor is poised to transform Western and Central New York’s economy and create a new generation of good-paying jobs.”

Schumer pushed for the CHIPS and Science Act with much more than upstate New York in mind. He and Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, introduced the bill in part out of concern that the semiconductor industry is currently centered in Taiwan – and therefore under threat from mainland China.

That being the case, Young said on his website that the CHIPS and Science Act “makes a bold investment in our country’s national security and will ensure America continues to lead the world in technological innovation.”

Speaking with reporters on Zoom, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo noted that in the past 20 years, about 90% of America’s new tech hubs went to just five metro areas. She said the tech hubs program aims to change that.

“The reality is, there are smart people, great entrepreneurs and leading-edge research institutions all across the country,” Raimondo said. “And we’re leaving so much potential on the table if we don’t get them the resources to compete and win in the tech sectors that will define the 21st century global economy.”

Schumer said the bill – and the $40 million now headed to the region – offers new hope for the long-troubled upstate economy.

“It’s so historic, as you know what it means for the future,” Schumer said. “You know how I always hate jobs leaving upstate New York and people thinking this beautiful place with beautiful people was on the decline. And now there’s a new optimism and hope because of what’s happened here.”

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