WNY TO GEAR UP FOR MANUFACTURING INSTITUTE
By James Fink, Buffalo Business First (7/10/13)
With more than 1,700 manufacturing-based companies in Western New York, local leaders believe an emphasis should be made on keeping the firms up-to-date on the latest technology and trends.
That’s why when the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council meets Thursday morning, they will hear a report from its Columbus-based consultants, EWI, that recommends an advanced manufacturing institute be created.
Where the institute will be located, its size and scope will be determined by a feasibility study EWI is working on — and due to be delivered by September. The institute may be operational by next year.
Much of what the institute’s staff, many of which will be engineers or those with an engineering background, will focus on will be “cross-cutting technologies,” said Steve Levesque, EWI project manager.
“It’s not likely to be all things to all people,” he said. “Our staff will be problem solvers.”
More than likely, though, the institute will be a companion to a workforce training center the regional council has already said it wants to develop and have in full operation by next year. The training center will be located at to-be-determined Buffalo site.
“It’s safe to say we are committed with the institute to a city location,” said Christina Orsi, Empire State Development Western New York regional director.
Growing advanced manufacturing opportunities is one of six main economic development growth sectors previously identified by the regional council.
The region has more than 50,000 people working in the manufacturing sector ranging from major employers like the General Motors Corp. Powertrain plant in the Town of Tonawanda to small, independent machine shops.
“It is an important piece of the economic development puzzle,” said Howard Zemsky, regional council co-chairman. “In terms of job growth, it is pretty fertile ground and plays to many of our strengths.”
Previous economic development overviews have pegged advanced manufacturing training as a key component for the region. The institute would not replace existing programs at area colleges, universities or educational outlets. Like the workforce training center, it will work in conjunction with an existing program.
“I expect it to be very market focused,” Levesque said.
Special attention will be given to exclusive or proprietary technologies. Trade secrets will not be passed to competing companies through the institute.
EWI is no stranger to the local landscape. It has worked with Wilson Greatbatch Ltd., Ford Motor Co., Praxair and General Motors Co. on creating advanced technology training programs.
“The point is to fill a void that we feel doesn’t exist in the area,” Orsi said.
James Fink covers real estate, commercial development and government