On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced an additional $55 million in funding for five innovative economic development projects as part of the third round of the competitive NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program. One of those projects belonged to Erie Community College, which secured $5.75 million in grant funding for its planned Bretschger Building renovation/AAS nanotechnology degree program at college's North Campus in Williamsville.
"On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of ECC, I'd like to thank Gov. Cuomo, Chancellor Zimpher and leaders of the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program," said ECC President Jack Quinn. "These awarded monies not only provide a transformational opportunity for both our college and nanotechnology training across the region, but will also provide a tremendous collaborative opportunity with nearby Genesee Community College. Together, we'll be able to prep students for promising careers in an industry growing right here in Western New York. We couldn't be happier, and we can't wait to get started."
ECC's project will renovate and equip the Bretschger Building for the establishment of a new Associate of Applied Science degree in nanotechnology. In response to the various large-scale nanotechnology-related projects announced across upstate New York, ECC is partnering with GCC to co-launch new degree programs in the renovated space.
With only two other semiconductor manufacturing-related AAS programs in New York (at Hudson Valley Community College and Schenectady County Community College), this degree program will develop a highly skilled homegrown workforce capable of filling the large number of nano-related jobs created across the state. Existing aforementioned AAS degree programs offered in the Capital Region primarily supply their local employers, who themselves still are forced to hire 50 percent of employees out of state. This project will train homegrown employees to work in the nanotechnology sector in New York.
The nanotechnology degree program will expend $3.1 million in renovations, with the remaining allocation dedicated to equipment purchases for both ECC and GCC to train on. The program aims to enroll 50 new students with each entering class, and employ 20 graduates in the region on an annual basis. The program will ensure there is a trained workforce to take advantage of new opportunities at the RiverBend project and high-tech research and development positions at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Additional ventures and growth in the nanotechnology sector will lead to opportunities for community college students and the creation of a homegrown workforce.
The NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program incentivizes bottom-up economic development projects that advance research opportunities around the state's colleges and universities while also leveraging private sector investments and job creation. The projects awarded funding are located in Western New York, the Southern Tier, Central New York, the North County and the Mid-Hudson Valley.
"In today's world, colleges and universities are more than just classrooms - they're economic engines that are creating jobs and training the workforce of tomorrow," Cuomo said. "We launched the SUNY 2020 program to support advanced research opportunities and tap into this potential for growth, and the five projects receiving funding today are an example of how this strategy is creating new opportunities across the state. Today's SUNY 2020 awards are an investment in our state's future, and I look forward to seeing each of these innovative projects grow the economy for years to come."
The governor announced this round of grant funding during visits to the Syracuse Inner Harbor Boathouse in Onondaga County and SUNY New Paltz in Ulster County.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, "Three consecutive years of unprecedented SUNY 2020 funding exemplifies Gov. Cuomo's commitment to executing a strategic economic development plan that links SUNY with the private sector to create jobs and produce the skilled workforce New York needs. SUNY 2020 awards and START UP NY are building SUNY's research infrastructure, improving the business climate, and producing unparalleled educational and career opportunities for our students."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "The NYSUNY 2020 initiative is an innovative partnership that unites the world-class SUNY system with New York state's economic development goals. These investments are creating great jobs for New Yorkers and enhancing the state's higher education curriculum through advanced training and research programs. Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, the SUNY 2020 initiative will continue to be a major driver of economic and academic growth across the state as round three of the program enables these five important projects to move forward.
Sen. Kenneth LaValle, chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, said, "New York's public colleges and universities are truly some of the best in the world, and as today's grant recipients demonstrate, they are also economic engines that play vital roles in our economy."
Cuomo first unveiled the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program in May 2011, and he signed NYSUNY 2020 bill into law in August of that year. The program provides a rational tuition policy for the SUNY and CUNY systems, maintenance of state funding invested into each system, and capital funding for SUNY's four university centers. Round two of the program was announced by the governor in his 2012 State of the State address with a $60 million appropriation enacted as part of the 2012-13 state budget. The $55 million released as part of this announcement is from the third round of NYSUNY 2020 announced in the 2013 State of the State and included in the 2013-14 budget.