Local small manufacturing companies will get a boost from recently-announced funding that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said is expected to create thousands of jobs across the state.
Gillibrand has announced that $1,367,000 in federal funding will go to the New York State Foundation for Science Technology and Innovation to strengthen and grow New York’s manufacturing industry. The funding will be allocated to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program under the United States Department of Commerce.
“New York’s manufacturers powered us through the 20th century, but have been among those hardest hit by these difficult economic times,” said Gillibrand. “We cannot rebuild our economy without helping our manufacturers upgrade and compete in the new economy.”
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program provides resources to help small and medium-sized businesses retool, expand or establish homegrown manufacturing operations through access to information, training and technologies that improve efficiency and productivity.
“This money allows us the resources to develop the MEP services in two areas: actively matching New York technology with New York manufacturers and assisting those manufacturers in designing and prototyping products made from these new technologies,” said James S. Senall, president of High Tech Rochester.
The funding will support the hiring of two experts to address these two goals, one who will work with The Center for Economic Growth in Albany and another who will work with High Tech Rochester, said Mike Haugh, managing director for manufacturing at High Tech Rochester.
The organization, located in Henrietta, covers the Finger Lakes region. The funding will allow it more opportunity to assist its clients — small or mid-size companies with fewer than 500 employees — to develop their projects, said Haugh.
Consultants from High Tech Rochester work with the companies or help them find experts in their fields to develop business strategies, seek out product and marketing opportunities and train them in manufacturing technologies. They also help companies seek out grants.
“Those are increasingly difficult to find in the world of tight government,” Haugh said.
This makes the recently announced federal funding all the more important for small manufacturing companies in the region, said Jeff Helfer, president and CEO of Diffinity Genomics Inc. in Henrietta.
For start-up companies, finding the funding to develop their products is a big concern, he said.
“There is a great deal of technology being developed in this area, such as through the University of Rochester and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology),” said Helfer, whose company deals with the extraction and purification of nucleic acids, like DNA. “Developing manufacturing capacity is expensive, also complicated.”
A lot of times, start-up companies are not given affordable access to knowledge about developing their capabilities.
“It’s always a race when you start a company between when you run out of money and when you actually sell the product at the marketplace,” said John Hart, president of Lumetrics Inc. in Henrietta.
Organizations like High Tech Rochester, he said, help start-up companies more quickly hit their goal of selling their products. And there are a lot of great companies in Rochester that need assistance, he added.
“I’m surprised how often I’m surprised about new companies here that have capabilities that are just astounding — astoundingly good,” Hart said.
But, people don’t always know they’re out there because the companies don’t have the support and resources they need to grow, he said.
“(The funding) is good for companies; it’s good for the community,” Helfer said. “With small start-up companies, anything they have access to … means the company doesn’t have to spend its own money.”
There is a significant need right now to keep manufacturing jobs in the region, said Helfer. Of his 12 employees, four had been laid off from other positions, two came from the University of Rochester and two came from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“We kept them here,” he said, adding that these are high-tech, high-paying jobs.
New York has lost more than 160,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001, or nearly one-quarter of its manufacturing base, said Gillibrand.
“I sometimes tell people that Rochester is a bit of a fly-over city in biotechnology,” said Helfer, meaning that when people think of the field, they usually think about technology hot spots like Boston, Philadelphia and California. “But, it’s a very rapidly growing field.”
“It’s hard to compete with the lower labor rates,” he said. “The way we need to compete currently and in the future is through innovation.”
Article credit: Erinn Cain, Staff Writer, Fairport-East Rochester Messenger Post