The photonics and optics industry in the greater Rochester region is in line to benefit from an estimated $1.3 billion in federal economic development funds, as the region has been named a national “Manufacturing Community” under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Program (IMCP).
The designation by the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced May 28, will give the nine-county Finger Lakes region preferred consideration when applying for economic development grants, with particular focus on strengthening next-generation manufacturing and development in the areas of photonics, optics and imaging.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren led the push for the IMCP designation, calling it the “top priority” of her new administration. Warren said her office worked with U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, to develop and advocate for the proposal, which was formally submitted earlier this year by the City of Rochester.
“I am thrilled that Rochester’s value as a global manufacturing hub with unlimited potential is being recognized by the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration,” Warren said. “Make no mistake — Rochester is on the map as one of the nation’s most vibrant, skilled and innovative cities to do business.”
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in support of the city’s application, Schumer singled out the region’s photonics cluster as “critical” to the Finger Lakes economy.
“The Finger Lakes is home to the most robust, sophisticated and highly integrated optics, photonics and imaging supply chain in the nation,” Schumer wrote. “By coordinating efforts and building on areas of strength, including an educated workforce, world-class educational and research institutions, the region’s manufacturing ecosystem, and key infrastructure like Eastman Business Park, we can accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in the region.”
The “Manufacturing Community” designation is aimed at revitalizing the manufacturing industry in nine Finger Lakes counties, opening the door to the $1.3 billion in federal funds for local economic development efforts, support of new job development and advancement of economic opportunity, especially in Eastman Business Park.
Among the goals will be to identify and leverage new sources of capital to spur the development of new businesses and the expansion of existing small businesses through creation of a business expansion fund, development of the proposed Finger Lakes Business Accelerator Cooperative, expansion of the Finger Lakes Regional Photonics Cluster Industry Lab, and development of an investment fund which promotes the links between the region’s higher education system and industries exploring emerging markets.
The Rochester region was selected from 70 communities that submitted applications for the program. Selected communities are assigned federal liaisons to help navigate the funding application process.