Erie Community College officials, local representatives and construction personnel joined for a groundbreaking ceremony for the school's $3.1 million nanotechnology building annex at ECC North Campus on Wednesday.
The energy-efficient building - funded as part of the $5.75 million secured for the college in September through NYSUNY's 2020 challenge grant program - will house ECC's nanotechnology AAS degree program, designed to help prepare students for career opportunities in burgeoning Western New York fields such as electronic and semiconductor fabrication technology, biotechnology and environmental science.
"ECC continues to be a leader in providing affordable, career-focused education for all of Western New York," ECC President Jack Quinn said at the afternoon event. "But after this education, our students need to transition into sustainable careers. In recent years, STEM-related job opportunities have multiplied not only across the country, but right here in our Buffalo backyard. We want to prep our students for these opportunities, and this new facility will help us do that."
When completed in January 2017, the annex will provide approximately 6,100 square feet of new class and vital clean room space; include 36 solar roof panels to provide clean power; and employ a state‐of‐the‐art energy recovery system to reduce heating and cooling costs and energy usage.
"I have been a strong supporter of NYSUNY's 2020 challenge grant program since its inception," state Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer said. "This critical funding will enhance Erie Community College's ability to connect their students to good-paying jobs in growing fields such as biotechnology and environmental science. Together, ECC and NYSUNY's 2020 challenge grant program are supporting start-up companies and economic development in Western New York."
Instituted with the aforementioned NYSUNY's grant funds and faculty preparation through the Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization at Penn State University, ECC's nanotechnology AAS degree program has been operating since last year to prepare students for careers in fields involving nanotechnology, which is engineering at the atomic-length scale, a size range which, until recently, was only available to nature. The program, which also involves Genesee and Jamestown Community College students working in shared space with ECC students, was established in response to the various large-scale nanotechnology-related projects announced across upstate New York.
"Today's groundbreaking is a pivotal moment in ECC's transformation in becoming our region's leader in job training and workforce development," Assemblyman Ray Walter said. "ECC's focus on pairing classroom learning with real-world employment opportunities is vital in giving their students a worthwhile education while preparing our region's 21st century workforce. When my colleagues and I in the State Legislature passed NYSUNY 2020, projects like this one is what we had in mind. I eagerly await the completion of the nanotechnology annex and look forward to ECC taking more steps in preparing their students for successful careers."
And with only two other semiconductor manufacturing-related AAS programs in New York (at Hudson Valley Community College and Schenectady County Community College), the completion of the nanotechnology annex will complement ECC's already established degree program to develop a highly skilled homegrown workforce capable of filling the multitude of forthcoming opportunities at South Buffalo's RiverBend campus, on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and within the planned WNY Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in Genesee County. Additional ventures and growth in the region's nanotechnology sector will lead to more opportunities for community college students, as well.
"If we can provide the training and equipment to help our students to succeed, then they can lead us toward the future of Western New York," Quinn said. "That's what the establishment of this facility helps us do for this community."