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Upstate NY wins federal tech hub grant securing millions of dollars for cities along I-90 corridor

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY raises a sign that reads NY Semiconductor Superhighway during a news conference on Tuesday, July 2, 2024, at Monroe Community College announcing the Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse corridor had been awarded $40 million in federal funding under the CHIPS and Science Act to develop a tech hug bolstering the semiconductor industry.
Brian Sharp
/
WXXI News
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY announces during a news conference on Tuesday, July 2, 2024, at Monroe Community College that the Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse corridor has been awarded $40 million in federal funding under the CHIPS and Science Act to develop a tech hug bolstering the semiconductor industry.

The White House announced 12 regional technology hubs Tuesday, including one in New York spanning the I-90 corridor between Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

The selection comes with $40 million for the region, and unlocks up to $8 million in matching funds from the state aimed and accelerating growth of the semiconductor industry.

“With this major investment, the feds are shining a national spotlight, and confirming what I have long known, that America’s semiconductor future runs through the heart of Upstate NY along the I-90 corridor,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said in a news release.

Schumer was in town with Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrortra and others in October announcing the “NY SMART I-Corridor Tech Hub” had won a federal designation putting it in line to win one of these “implementation grants.” The regional hub encompasses the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Auburn and Batavia metropolitan areas.

Schumer says the designation will help the upstate region compete for millions of dollars in federal funds for semiconductor manufacturing and workforce training.

He returned on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the announcement.

In total, the Biden administration committed $504 million on Tuesday to regions in Colorado, Montana, Illinois, Nevada, South Florida and elsewhere focused on industries also including clean energy, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, which officials said would strengthen national and economic security.

The program is part of the CHIPS & Science Act championed by Schumer and signed into law in 2022.

"This funding represents, I think, a downpayment," said Congressman Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit. So we are going to have to continue in the Congress to push for continued funding over the next decade."

The collaboration will focus on key areas:

▶Monroe Community College will lead a workforce training program called STEP UP (Semiconductor Talent & Employer Partnership in Upstate New York) that will work with supply chain firms on training, job placement and retention. MCC plans to add new curriculum and credentialing programs to its Optical Systems Technology Program.

Robin Cole Jr., vice president for economic development, workforce and career technical education at Monroe Community College
Provided photo
Robin Cole Jr., vice president for economic development, workforce and career technical education at Monroe Community College

Come 2034, officials expect the region will have a shortage of 10,000 workers if training doesn’t keep up.

"A lot of individuals just aren't experienced and don't understand the industry, they understand the opportunity," said Robin Cole Jr., MCC’s vice president for economic development, workforce and career technical education. "And they really truly don't understand that it is now a paradigm shift.

"We're in the next century, the next phase of economic and workforce development, and of jobs as a whole," he said. "And we're ready truly to lead that here within the region."

Some of that work already has begun, led by Micron.

Cole said the company has convened a task force focused on developing a pipeline working with employers, K-12 schools and universities. Some programs already have been put in place, and there are more to come.

▶The University at Buffalo will oversee efforts to close supply chain gaps. Federal dollars will go toward increasing capacity at three regional "manufacturing extension partnerships." The effort aims to "guide manufacturers through assessments to understand how their products fit into the broader semiconductor supply chain and develop pathways for each manufacturer to obtain the right certifications and other expertise necessary to make them eligible to sell into these fabs."

▶Syracuse University will work on commercialization, connecting startups with critical resources, including equipment and facilities, research and development/prototyping.

Officials stressed that the roles or focus areas are corridor-wide in each case, with the intent being that investments benefit the entire corridor rather than the designated lead organization or its surrounding metro.

"The targeted investments this Hubs funding enables — in workforce, innovation, and advanced manufacturing — position us to lead the way across the full semiconductor value chain, and in so doing, expand economic opportunity for all across our entire corridor," said Joe Stefko, president of ROC2025, one of three key organizers of the region's tech hub application.

Micron was awarded $6.1 billion in federal funding under the CHIPS and Science Law some of which will go toward the $100 billion mega-fab project in Clay.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.