November 26, 2018 10:35 PM
Leaders of Rochester's push towards a new opportunity in the field of photonics declared work at the city's new photonics lab which started to bear fruit Monday.
On Monday, the state Photonics Board of Officers acknowledged the facility itself would not provide "thousands" of jobs predicted in some forecasts.
Instead, it created seven jobs but still unveiled a glowing assessment of progress at the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) facility on Lake Avenue in Rochester.
"Once this is up and running, and mature, it's going to draw jobs," declared Bob Duffy, president of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. "It's going to draw a lot of research and investment. And you're starting to think it can take off right now, just with the customers it's drawing right now!"
Officials showed off the TAP facility's suite of clean rooms.
Some were already outfitted with equipment for the development of electronics that use light over fiber optic cables instead of electricity over copper wires.
In December, board members expected to have the facility's first tenant move in, a California chip company seeking to refine its "system on a chip" to accept "light on a chip."
"The early customers are very, very, interested in using our capability," exclaimed Ed White, chairman of the National Photonics Initiative."Having this ecosystem in the US is a game changer."
"They are a year and a half late!" exclaimed Mark Assini, former Gates town supervisor.
Assini pointed to documents he had demanded and obtained through New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), documents he said made inaccurately rosy projections of progress for the facility.
"December 2017, substantially complete," Assini quoted from one message."And they will be up and running, completely, by April 2018. This is their document, not mine!"
Assini fretted that long delays in getting the TAP center up and running as a financially viable concern meant longer, unproductive periods of the enterprise paying for taxpayer-funded rent and upkeep in the ON Semiconductor building, once part of Kodak, where the TAP facility is housed.
"The project is about a year and a half behind schedule. The costs associated with them missing schedule are overwhelming. We'll find out at the end," added Assini.
"I'm probably as impatient as anybody but, we are building something very good here," countered White, who denied any significant delay.
"I'm not sure where the people that are saying we are a year and a half late are starting their counting from," White said. "But as we look at the schedule that we put forward back, many months ago, we are still on track, with that schedule."
AIM Photonics' officials did seek to clarify blockbuster predictions for photonics-related job creation.
In 2015, when headliners like then-Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Andrew Cuomo trumpeted the photonics initiative, some advocates promised jobs in the thousands coming in a new photonic age in Rochester.
One forecast from the office of then-Congresswoman Louise Slaughter anticipated 6,000 jobs.
"This is not going to create jobs," cried Assini. "You are not going to get 6,000 or 7,000 jobs as was promised with this. It's never going to happen. Never."
While White said the facility currently had seven employees, he predicted that number would expand to about 50, mostly engineers, as the clean rooms were completed and more equipment was moved in.
This is a far cry from the thousands of onetime predictions, predictions John Maggiore, chairman of the Photonics Board of Officers said were not clear in spelling out where exactly those future jobs would be created.
"This [the TAP facility] is not going to be the generator of jobs per se itself," he said. "Jobs will come about as a result of the types of research that will be done here."
White echoed that explanation, insisting that the work done inside the TAP facility would result in the creation of jobs, possibly many more jobs, outside.
That, he explained, was the purpose of the state's Photonics Attraction Fund that is meant to promote the area for tech companies looking for expertise in photonics and a state of the art facility to develop them.
"Those great products, produced by those great companies, are going to add to employment," he said. "What we want to do, ultimately, is get those companies to move to Rochester with the attraction fund, and those jobs that are created by those new great products to get made here."
Updated: November 26, 2018 10:35 PM
Created: November 26, 2018 09:33 PM
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