The Leader Herald: Tech Talk Forum participants say area ready to bring in businesses

April 24, 2014

April 23, 2014

By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - With the recent surge in high-tech industries and associated educational opportunities, the Mohawk Valley Technology Forum participants said the area is ready to host more companies and jobs.

"We have a rare opportunity to establish the Mohawk Valley as a leader in high-tech economic development and a center for technological innovation and job creation," said state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, who led the forum on the Fulton-Montgomery Community College campus. "I envision a high-tech corridor along the Thruway, from SUNY's College of Nanoscale and Engineering in Albany to the SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica."

The forum participants included FMCC President Dustin Swanger, Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Patrick Michel and Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer.

Swanger spoke about the facilities and programs already on campus, including a state-of-the-art clean room, along with the various partnership's with HFM BOCES, including the new P-Tech program.

In August, the state announced it awarded a $2.4 million grant to HFM BOCES, its component school districts, FMCC and more than a dozen regional businesses.

Students will be drawn from school districts in the BOCES region. The program will help local students prepare for high-skill jobs, including health sciences, advanced manufacturing, engineering and technology and business management. It will allow them to earn an associate degree tuition-free from FMCC while they are still in high school and getting that degree.

Michel said more than 70 students have already submitted their applications for the 50 available slots.

"Education is so key, and we have the tools available to move businesses here," Tkaczyk said.

A multi-year apprenticeship program, which was developed in collaboration with businesses through the chamber, has started at HFM BOCES.

The college has had the nanoscale science and engineering programs for more than 10 years, Swanger said. Meanwhile, the majority of districts within the region have their own STEM programs, which teach students the basics of advanced technology and engineering.

In addition to the education resources, the region has seven business parks available for these high-tech manufacturers to start their operation, along with business parks eyed for development in Mohawk and at the former Tryon facility, Kilmer said.

Tkaczyk, whose district includes Montgomery County, asked the forum what elected officials can do on the state level to assist this development, and received a variety of answers.

Swanger said the state needs to provide more funding for public and higher education.

However, he said there is still more change needed on the local level.

"I'm not convinced we are there yet as a region," Swanger said. "We still have too much fighting between and amongst elected officials. We have to be thinking regionally to make the whole pie bigger."

Kilmer told Tkaczyk that expediting permitting and streamlining processes and regulations would help promote business growth in the community and across the state.