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Rochester poised to be hub for manufacturing growth

By: Mike Murphy//February 22, 2013

Rochester poised to be hub for manufacturing growth

By: Mike Murphy//February 22, 2013//

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Eastman Business Park would be a huge piece of a potential photonics and optics hub, which Sen. Charles E. Schumer believes the Rochester region can become. Mike Murphy

A huge, high-tech piece of machinery in a building on the massive Eastman Business Park property holds a glimpse into the future, as well as a key to the park’s revival.

The device makes thin film, which can be used on solar panel displays, components for fuel cells and electric cars, and even someday displays on video wrist watches.

The possibilities exist here, said Mike Alt, director of the park.

“This is a great opportunity for manufacturing,” Alt said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer said he wants to help make things happen here — and other spots in the country — and provide the same kinds of help countries like Germany do to remain competitive globally in advanced manufacturing.

Schumer visited the former Kodak Park on Thursday to talk about creating a national network of manufacturing hub as part of National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Act of 2013, legislation he and Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown are crafting.

And, specifically, he spoke on why Rochester is an ideal candidate to become one, Schumer said.

The legislation would create 15 spots across the country that would specialize in different areas of advanced manufacturing.

A hub would attract federal dollars and tax breaks for research and development, leading business development and the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs over time, Schumer said.

Regions would submit applications to be designated a site, but applicants would have to show promise in creating jobs and already have the capabilities in place to make it happen.

Rochester is well-suited to be a hub for photonics and optics, Schumer said.

The brainpower is already here, particularly through University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology and other colleges in the region, Schumer said. The area also boasts a population of highly skilled workers and has an existing optics industry cluster.

The Eastman Business Park, which 25 companies call home, has the potential to develop more ideas into more commerce.

“Rochester has all the makings of a winner,” Schumer said. “We have a real good shot to make this happen.”

The work to convince others across the country will need to continue, according to University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. Seligman is also co-chairman of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, which has identified the former Kodak Park site as a priority project for state funding.

This is a challenge Schumer is posing, Seligman said.

“I think we have a pretty strong case here,” Seligman said.

First comes passage of the bill, which Schumer expects will receive bipartisan support. President Barack Obama has requested $1 billion to start the process rolling next year.

Then it will be a matter of businesses, government and colleges and universities working together to make their case to the country and bring great minds, businesses and financial help to the region.

“When we get them here, I can sell the park and the community,” Alt said.

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