It seems almost too good to be true: 450 well-paying jobs coming to the region as part of a $4.4 billion commitment to New York state from five major nanotechnology companies. Add that to 475 other nano jobs for the area announced two years ago, plus 400 construction jobs — not to mention potential spin-off businesses and other economic fallout — good fallout, not the poisonous kind we’ve grown accustomed to here in the Mohawk Valley.
Few could blame us for being skeptical. After all, we’ve heard the promises before from other governors. We remember the data center fairy tale and its 200-plus state jobs promised by Gov. George Pataki for the SUNYIT campus, and then the back-pedaling on that project by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who promised “something else” in its place. Later, Gov. David Paterson said the Pataki promise was “premature.” And “something else” never came.
So why should we cling to the hope that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make good on the latest promise?
First, players have been named — and they’re not minor leaguers. IBM, Intel, Global Foundries, TSMC and Samsung are heavy hitters in the world of nanotechnology, and for them to step forward with such a commitment is pretty significant.
Second, SUNYIT in Marcy is in the right place at the right time. Over the years, the college has positioned itself as a perfect partner for nanotechnology development, most recently earning reaccreditation by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET Inc., the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology. The accreditation is for bachelor of science degree programs in civil engineering technology, computer engineering technology, electrical engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology.
Third, SUNYIT already has charted a course for nanotechnology development. Two years ago, it was announced that $45 million would be invested at the Marcy campus to make it a center for nanotechnology research. The plan partners SUNYIT with Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Technology, which has become a center for the technology. Projects planned for SUNYIT included a Center for Advanced Technology, which would have classrooms, and a Computer Chip Commercialization Center, where systems developed in Albany would be assembled. Building construction for these planned projects is scheduled to get under way in spring 2012.
And so, we remain cautiously optimistic — not only about the 925 nanotech jobs, but also about SUNYIT’s future. College spokesman John Swann rightly points out that this could help define the college. And that could logically lead to spin-off businesses, not the least of which could be the long sought-after chip manufacturer. It also means a stronger identity for SUNYIT, as it takes its place in the developing world of nanotechnology. That bodes well for the college and the community. That means political leaders — from Cuomo on down — need to stay focused on this effort to make it happen.
No more false promises.