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Technology investment in NY could expand beyond Micron

I have written about the new NY SMART I-Corridor technology hub being built in upstate New York. Onondaga Community College has benefited from a lot of technology investment, but community colleges in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester all stand to benefit.

Monroe Community College, in Rochester, is seeking $17.5M to improve its ability to train the workers who will eventually staff the Micron facility in Onondaga County. MCC is part of a consortium of colleges and training centers that have pitched in to support Micron and the follow-on technology investment from other companies that will eventually occupy the area.

The consortium hopes to secure $54M in new funding to support its members. If the consortium can secure funding, Syracuse University would receive $15M to spearhead the area’s research and development activities. The University of Buffalo would receive $8M to help develop a supplier network for the area’s new semiconductor industry. Additional consortium members would receive funding for other supportive projects.

The US Department of Economic Development will now evaluate the consortium’s proposal. Last year, the area was designated as one of more than 30 “technology hubs” nationwide. The designation does not come with any guarantees regarding funding, but federal funds are available to help kickstart economic activities in and around the newly designated technology hubs. The Biden Administration has made the development of a domestic semiconductor industry a high priority.

The technology hub designations are a follow-on to the CHIPS and Science Act passed last year. Micron’s investment in the area is an example of the power of such a designation. According to Micron, it plans to create 50,000 jobs that are directly related to the semiconductor industry. The area also expects additional technology investment by suppliers.

What would a $100B technology investment look like for Washtenaw County?

What if Micron had come into Washtenaw County with a $100B technology investment? UM could lead the multimillion dollar research and development support; EMU could lead business transformations. WCC could lead workforce development and training, being backstopped by community colleges in Monroe, Jackson, and Western Wayne counties. The effort would bring 50,000 jobs to the area. Such an investment could literally double the size of the county. Can you imagine that?

Me neither.

Onondaga County got this investment in part because its educational infrastructure was ready and willing to provide training to tens of thousands of people. WCC is nowhere near that. The administration has systematically failed to make the needed investments in occupational education for nearly two decades. And the Board has slept on this, while wasting millions of what was supposed to be dollars meant for education on the construction and operation of a quasi-private health club. Their biggest concern has been the operational status of the building’s hot tubs.

And in the WCC Master Plan, is a hotel and convention center that the public has not asked for, has previously refused to fund, clearly does not want, and has not agreed to pay for.

Which would you rather have? A $100B investment that creates 50,000 jobs, or a members-only health club that continuously drains resources away from the County’s ability to attract new industry? Dozens of additional suppliers for your $100B employer, or a hotel and conference center? Would you rather that your tax dollars transform the economy of the county or transform the community college parking lot into retail space?

Think about it when you vote this November, because I’m the only one who’s going to ask you how you want your tax dollars to be spent.

Photo Credit: Focal Foto , via Flickr