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BBB Regional Challenge Grants Provide Opportunity For Transformational Investment To Revitalize Local Economies By Promoting Emerging Industries, Innovation, And Workforce Development

Western New York Advanced Manufacturing Cluster Would Scale Up Innovation, Advance Inclusive Workforce Development, And Develop Infrastructure To Rapidly Expand The Growing Advanced Manufacturing Sector In WNY

Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster Proposal Aims To Accelerate Manufacturing Operations Across Upstate Of Key Products Like Fiber Optics, Batteries, Drones And Sensors

Schumer to EDA: From Buffalo To Rochester And Throughout Upstate New York, Investing In These Projects Is A Win-Win-Win: Will Supercharge Rapidly Growing Tech Manufacturing Sector, Create Thousands Of Good Paying Jobs, And Boost Upstate NY Economy As A Regional Tech Hub

A longtime advocate of innovation and promoting tech manufacturing in Upstate New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is urging the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to select the Western New York and Rochester regions as an awardee through the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge. In letters and a personal call this week to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Schumer explained that the Western New York and Rochester regions are primed to bring together existing assets and expertise to support the robust growing manufacturing sector, advance research & development, bolster workforce training, and help attract new companies to the region, highlighting the Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster and Western New York Advanced Manufacturing Cluster proposals submitted.

“The Western New York Advanced Manufacturing Cluster and the Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster proposal would revolutionize the manufacturing sector from Rochester to Buffalo and throughout Upstate New York, creating thousands of jobs, and making the region a global technology hub,” said Senator Schumer. “Upstate New York is on the front lines of high tech manufacturing with world renowned companies, prestigious research institutions, and a top notch workforce, making it a prime candidate for federal investment and to boost U.S. competitiveness in critical manufacturing. That is why I advocated directly with Commerce Secretary Raimondo to advocate for the selection of the region’s projects in the Build Back Better Challenge to support the critical expansion of domestic tech manufacturing in Western New York, Rochester, and throughout Upstate.”

“The Build Back Better Challenge Grant is a transformational federal investment in regional economies as they recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Henry Cialone, CEO of EWI and Buffalo Manufacturing Works. “EWI is proud to be a part of the Western New York team focused on growing the advanced manufacturing sector through investment in innovative technologies, workforce development, and infrastructure. Manufacturing is an indispensable industry in WNY, employing 61,360 workers paid an average wage of $85,474 in 2020. The Build Back Better Grant Challenge would be a crucial opportunity for WNY as we continue to support manufacturers in leveraging emerging technologies to increase job quality and be more competitive on a global scale.”

Christina Orsi, Associate Vice President for Economic Development at the University of Buffalo said, “Innovation, entrepreneurship and education have been the backbone of our country and our region’s economic growth.  The federal EDA Build Back Better grant challenge recognizes this and our Western New York region’s have collaborated across universities, industry, government and non-profit organizations to compete for these grants to advance growth in critical industry clusters including Optoelectronics and Advanced Manufacturing.  This funding can help our region increase good paying jobs, build more inclusive training and educations pathways to those jobs, accelerate the growth of new ventures who will build products right here in the US and help our existing manufacturing base continue to innovate.” 

Steve Dewhurst, University of Rochester Interim Vice President for Research and Chief Research Officer said, “The University of Rochester is proud to lead this Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster Phase 1 Proposal for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. This cluster is made possible by the partnership and expertise of organizations, like Luminate and the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, industry and academia across Upstate, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton. As we pursue this generational investment opportunity from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, we look forward to further engaging our tremendous partners to refine the vision for the cluster, build upon our existing strengths and create a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient local optoelectronics economy. Without action, there is a high risk of losing domestic optoelectronics manufacturing capabilities, eroding our economic and national security and ceding economic and employment opportunities. We are extremely grateful for Senator Schumer’s support for this application and his leadership to make bold, critical new investments in research and innovation.

For the Western New York Advanced Manufacturing Cluster, Schumer explained that the proposed projects would help train over 1,600 individuals for a career in tech over a 3-year period. The project would also work to fill gaps in the Western NY innovation ecosystem that will enable the region to become a national hub in key industries like vaccine production, utility infrastructure components, industrial gases, and precision motion control. The project would also reverse environmental degradation left by the region’s industrial past by cleaning up and revitalizing properties on Buffalo’s East Side to attract new investment and create new jobs. The proposal also focuses on developing a more diverse, highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of growing employers and expand opportunity for more workers to access high-paying jobs. The project is supported by a vast coalition including the University at Buffalo, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Invest Buffalo Niagara, Launch NY, Buffalo Manufacturing Works, Northland Workforce Training Center, Goodwill of Western New York, SUNY Alfred, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, and many more.

For the Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster, Schumer said the project brings together major regional stakeholders, leading research institutions, community colleges, unions, and industrial partners to support new tech manufacturing, launch startups,  expand research & development, and train workers for jobs in the emerging tech industries. Partners in the project include University of Rochester (lead), University at Buffalo, Syracuse University, Binghamton University, RIT, Cornell University, Monroe Community College, CenterState CEO, Alfred University, LeMoyne, M&T Bank and more. In addition, the project has a focus on expanding opportunities for traditionally marginalized workers, with a significant portion of the hiring in proposed projects coming from underserved populations and at least 40% of the economic impact servicing new Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) businesses.

Optoelectronics (OE) is the technology that uses both electronics and light to create products such as fiber optics, batteries, drones and sensors and more.  More than 200 small and midsized OE companies are now located in this region of New York and are a vital domestic supply chain for our nation’s energy and security industries.  However, without federal support like this Build Back Better investment, there is a high risk that U.S. OE manufacturing will migrate overseas and undermine U.S. national and economic security.  Growth of the Upstate New York Optoelectronics Cluster will ensure that critical optoelectronic products needed for industries, such as security and energy, can be manufactured domestically. The cluster will also create a resilient economy and workforce by specifically recruiting and training now unemployed or underemployed at-risk workers for these new jobs that will provide good wages and a career path.  This region includes some of the nation’s most impoverished areas so by reaching outside established employment pools to include marginalized and disenfranchised populations in this industry the cluster will create a win-win by securing employment for those disproportionately affected by the pandemic and economically at risk while providing a qualified workforce for the hundreds of local businesses now facing staffing shortages.

The $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, funded by the American Rescue Plan, is designed to assist communities nationwide, with accelerating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and building local economies that will be resilient to economic disruptions. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is being implemented as a two phase program In Phase 1, the EDA will provide ~$500,000 technical assistance grants. Those selected as Phase 1 awardees will be considered “finalists” and the grants will be used by the finalists to prepare more detailed applications for Phase 2 transformational projects that benefit their respective geographic regions and are aligned around a holistic approach to building and scaling a strategic industries. In Phase 2, the EDA will award 20-30 regional coalitions $25 million to $75 million, and up to $100 million, for selected projects to grow new regional industry clusters or scale existing ones through planning, infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship, workforce development, access to capital, and more.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter of support for the Western New York Advanced Manufacturing Cluster appears below:

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNY REDC) to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build Back Better grant program.

In 2011, the five westernmost counties of New York State formed a broad-based coalition as the WNY REDC. This coalition of government, business and community leaders quickly developed “A Strategy for Prosperity,” a regional economic development plan for targeted economic development. Since, WNY REDC partners have collaborated on: improved advanced manufacturing competitiveness; increased innovation through access to applied research and scaled testing facilities; improved productivity through the adoption of increased export assistance; prepared formerly industrial and manufacturing sites for expansion; grew an appropriately skilled workforce to meet advanced manufacturing labor needs.

With funding, WNY REDC, working with a diverse coalition of partners and secured matching funds of over $147,000,000, will pursue a range of projects including innovation and manufacturing, workforce development and infrastructure to support the region.

I applaud Western New York Regional Economic Development Council their foresight and

sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.


A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter of support for the Upstate NY Optoelectronics Cluster appears below:

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the University of Rochester (UofR) to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build Back Better grant program for their “The Build Back Better Optoelectronics Cluster in Upstate, NY” proposal.

Upstate New York is uniquely situated with a combination of a world-class workforce, advanced manufacturer, and renowned higher education institutions. The UofR’s proposed Optoelectronics Cluster brings together existing assets and expertise across Western New York, the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Central New York to ensure that optoelectronic products vital for national security are manufactured domestically and create opportunity to reshape the Upstate New York economy as a regional tech hub. To accomplish this, the proposal brings together a coalition of leading research institutions, community colleges and organizations, and industrial partners to fully define key projects in workforce development, entrepreneurship and business acceleration to lead to tech and non-tech job growth across sectors, create and retain new companies, and increase venture investment.

I applaud the University of Rochester for their foresight and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.