GUEST COLUMN: Loss of SUNY Polytechnic would be devastating
GE deserted Utica. Kodak disintegrated in Rochester. IBM left Binghamton. Carrier abandoned Syracuse.
Upstate has endured much economic hardship over the years, having suffered under a tax and regulatory structure dictated by downstate leaders. But those were the decisions of private sector companies beyond our control. And despite those setbacks, we are on the road to recovery. Yet incredibly, today, it is our state government that is contemplating the same kind of abandonment. The same divestment of hope and opportunity that we endured at the hands of corporate America, and I won’t stand for it.
In her State of the State, Governor Hochul advanced a proposal that is devastating to the community I lead and perplexing given the state’s overall effort to attract the semiconductor industry. The notion of stripping Oneida County and our region of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, a world-class research institution, and the only one in our region, is an insult to the students, professors, companies and the organizations that have invested in its spectacular success.
Ranked 14th nationally in US News and World Report, SUNY Poly is both a research asset for the industry and increasingly a center for talent recruitment and workforce development. The Computer Chip Commercialization Center, known as Quad C, a shared-use colocation facility at SUNY Poly’s Utica site, is enabling next-generation device processing and packaging, information technology and supply chain support. And our workforce development efforts are best exemplified through Wolfspeed’s (Cree) commitment of a $2 million scholarship program over 10 years to help students from historically underserved or marginalized communities, and those with significant financial hardship.
SUNY Poly in Utica has become, not only to Oneida County, but to Central New York, an asset essential to the attraction and support of the semiconductor industry. With multiple active leads being considered at both Marcy and in White Pines in Syracuse, this proposal will be perceived as a reduction in the state’s commitment to attracting the industry.
Conversely, Albany County’s strategic economic development plan, completed in 2020, makes no mention of the industry or even the semiconductor research assets at the University at Albany. The fact is, UAlbany already receives all the benefits of SUNY Poly without bearing any of the financial burden incurred to build the SUNY Poly campus. At the same time, let’s not forget Albany is poised to be the beneficiary of a brand new $750 million Wadsworth Lab, which is consistent with Albany County’s economic development strategy, that in large part focuses on healthcare.
Beyond the direct impacts on our efforts with the semiconductor industry, the creation of SUNY Poly has provided the missing ingredient to the region’s workforce and research development infrastructure. The Mohawk Valley is rich in education and corporate and military research. What we have lacked is a significant higher education research presence.
This isn’t just empty rhetoric. Our community has actually invested our own taxpayer dollars in our partnership. Oneida County, the City of Rome, the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and the Griffiss Institute have invested approximately $65 million to develop the Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, NY as an open innovation campus for academic-industry-government research and development in large part based on SUNY’s commitment to maintain SUNY Poly as a founding strategic partner. Moreover, AFRL-RI (Rome Labs) has invested heavily in joint research and workforce development programs to grow SUNY Poly to its current prominence, predicated on the combined campus model. Diminishing SUNY Poly in any way, will move our efforts to advance the region backward.
Oneida County and much of upstate is on the road to economic revival, and education and research are key drivers of future growth. It is up to our leaders in Albany to abandon this destructive and punitive proposal. Ransacking one regional economy to benefit another pits New Yorker against New Yorker, deepens resentments and hurts us all. We aren’t asking for anything new at SUNY Poly, we already have it. We are simply asking that the state doesn’t repeat our sad history by abandoning our community.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Anthony Picente is Oneida County Executive.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here