NanoCollege presented as model to secretary of commerce

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden

Future entrepreneurs: A young woman participating in a Girls Inc. program called Eureka, which encourages careers in nanotechnology, tells U. S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker about her idea for a clothing material that grows and shrinks along with the wearer’s body. Congressman Paul Tonko, far right, accompanied Pritzker on her tour Tuesday of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden

Laser-like focus: A young woman, one of the 53 who participated in the Girls, Inc. Eureka program, spent four weeks of the summer learning about science, technology, engineering, and math, and how those fields relate to careers in nanotechnology. 

GUILDERLAND — The new United States Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, says the local nano college should serve as a model for other national manufacturing industry hotspots.

Pritzker, who was sworn in as the 38th Secretary of Commerce at the end of June, visited the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road, on Tuesday, where she toured the facilities and learned more about how it partners with public and private businesses throughout the world to research computer chip technology.

Pritzker, from a wealthy Chicago family, has more than 25 years of business experience — in real estate, hospitality, financial services, and senior living — and served on the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness, and the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Congressman Paul Tonko, who represents the 20th District, was on hand to speak with Pritzker.

“It was very important to have her visit, see all of this in working action, and figure out how it fits with President Obama’s vision,” Tonko told The Enterprise this week.

In 2012, the president launched the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, an initiative to create 15 new manufacturing institutes in the United States. The NanoCollege is expected to apply for federal funding to become a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute; requirements to receive the funding include the private sector working together with academics, something Pritzker said NanoTech already does.

“We’re a classic example of where the president wants to take this country,” said Tonko. “We’re very involved with cutting-edge, innovative, and transitional manufacturing.”

The president, Tonko said, recently gave a speech about job creation, and the Capital Region is a prime location, particularly within the NanoCollege and the area directly surrounding it.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY legislation also aims to promote job growth, by offering tax breaks to companies that are established within a one-mile radius of a participating university. The tax breaks would apply to businesses that were start-ups, relocating, or expanding, and that would have positive economic and community benefits.

The state’s University at Albany and the NanoCollege would both be eligible for creating tax-free zones.

The State University of New York Board of Trustees recently voted to split the university and the NanoCollege into two separate, degree-granting institutions, after determining that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering would operate more successfully that way.

Tonko believes that further expansion of the NanoCollege and its partnerships would help create jobs, too.

Asked about concerns that high-tech jobs often don’t improve local middle-class or working class opportunities, Tonko said, “Initially you’d have to bring experts in, to prime the pump, so to speak, but then you would have work opportunities for maintenance and repair people, you have jobs in installation, innovation, and design; you have jobs for different trades all the way up to jobs that require a Ph.D.”

It was important, he said, to showcase to Pritzker that the Capital Region is a “hub of innovation” and to have her “remind the decision-makers” that the area is worthy of a federal investment.

“Any delay here is sacrificing our robust competitiveness,” Tonko concluded. “I think Ms. Pritzker was impressed with the general area.”

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