US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer visited Oneonta on Friday, April 29, to voice his support for the Otsego County Acceleration Center.
The County of Otsego Industrial Development Agency applied for a US Department of Agriculture Rural Innovation Stronger Economy grant in the amount of $ 1.3 million. The grant program helps rural governments, industries, universities and organizations create jobs and expand business. “That’s exactly what your proposal is,” Schumer said.
Schumer said he wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack, supporting the application, and said he would call him about the grant. He said the proposed innovation center will spur job growth and technology innovation in the area.
“I have two goals,” he said. “One, I want to bring manufacturing back to the US. And two, we need to make sure tech innovation doesn’t stay in the cities. We need to push tech upstate.”
Schumer said Otsego County is poised to be a major technology innovation center as it is centrally located between Binghamton and Albany and near Utica, all areas where emerging technology research and manufacturing is occurring. He said semiconductors are being manufactured in Marcy, near Utica, Albany is poised to become a research hub and Binghamton is poised to manufacture batteries.
Jody Zakrevsky, CEO of Otsego Now, said the private and public partners have been creating the innovation / acceleration center for more than a year.
Chad Hall, senior vice president for sales and operations at Ioxus, said his company and Custom Electronics, as industry partners, will assist participating start-up companies and entrepreneurs, manufacture and test prototypes, identify markets and help businesses establish business plans. The companies will also help identify potential companies for the accelerator.
Hall said Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta will provide business students as interns to help the start-up businesses. He said Otsego County IDA would purchase, own and maintain the facility, lead the center, provide business financing to eligible start-up companies and tax incentives for their scale-up and expansion and oversee center staff.
SUNY Oneonta President Alberto Cardelle said the innovation center would help students majoring in sustainability, business and the new major green supply chain management. “What we’d like is for students to come here for college and stay in the area,” he said, and said the center is a way to entice students to stay.
Hall said the center could “create 300 manufacturing jobs in five years,” by establishing small and medium-sized companies and expanding existing companies.
Otsego County Administrator Josh Beams said the site of the innovation center is “to be determined” if the funds come through.
Schumer also talked about the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which was passed by the Senate last June and aims to bring back more manufacturing jobs from overseas. He said the original name of the USICA legislation was called Endless Frontier in honor of Vannevar Bush, who encouraged investing in science after World War II, but it was changed because people thought of “covered wagons.” The $ 52 billion bill includes $ 2.4 billion for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $ 1.2 billion for the Manufacturing USA program. The bill also creates a $ 10 billion Regional Technology Hubs program and increases federal investment for STEM education, which could also benefit the area, a media release said.
The House of Representatives passed its own manufacturing bill in January. The two bills are now in conference committee to be reconciled before final legislation is sent to the president for his signature.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.