July 03, 2014

What's new with nano? 'Exciting things are on the horizon'

By: Elizabeth Cooper

Source: Utica Observer-Dispatch


The opening of the Computer Chip Commercialization Center at SUNYIT is in about six months, and officials say the project is on track.

But as announcements about other projects generated by SUNYIT’s partner, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, have been popping up across the state, it’s easy to wonder if the region has been forgotten.

And questions linger about several elements of the nanotechnology project, known as Quad-C, and the one at the neighboring site being formed for a chip fabrication plant:

* Is there another job fair in the works for the Quad-C? Officials said one would come in June, but nothing has been announced.

* What were the results of the job fair that took place in April?

* So far there are no takers for the manufacturing site, but are there any new developments there?

* What progress has been made in getting the required Army Corps of Engineers wetland mitigation permits for the site?

Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer in charge of the newly merged SUNYIT and NanoCollege, said local residents and job-seekers should not be worried.

“The Nano Utica initiative is proceeding extremely well,” he said in an email. “The governor personally is involved in guiding it. And more exciting things are on the horizon.”

The $1.5 billion Quad-C is a partnership among the state and several private companies. About 1,500 jobs are expected to be generated there. The chip manufacturing site could one day become home to three plants with as many as 4,500 jobs.

NanoCollege spokesman Jerry Gretzinger said though the expected second job fair has yet to be scheduled, it is in the works.

“The governor has requested that we hold it after normal work hours so people who were unable to get there before will be able to,” he said.

He did not provide any information about how many people had been hired out of the 1,700 applicants who came to the April fair. That event was meant to recruit for the first 300 jobs, which will be state-paid. Interviews also were conducted by the facility’s private partners.

The next event will look to fill the next 300, Gretzinger said.

Representatives for companies planning to locate at Quad-C said they were happy with the applicant pool.

The chief operating officer for the site’s employment behemoth, Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions Inc., said the company had been impressed by those who came to the job fair and plans to start hiring in the fall.

“The passion for this kind of thing is there,” Edmundo Ruiz said. “You can see that.”

He said they already are in negotiations for orders for products that will be made at Quad C.

The company already has started ordering the equipment for the fabrication facility, which isn’t yet complete. The first hires will be for a core team of experienced engineers and some support technicians. As operations ramp up, more people will be hired, and he hopes that within the next two years as many as 1,000 people will work for the company’s Quad-C operations.

Steve Janack, a spokesman for Valutek, said the company is culling through the resumes and other information from the event.

“From what we have seen so far, we have been impressed by the quantity and quality of the applicants,” he said. “We are looking for individuals who are highly skilled but also have a can-do attitude, and we are seeing those traits.”

Valutek is looking for about 25 people with tech and manufacturing skills, as well as people with sales and business development backgrounds. Hires might be made in the fall, he said.

Jim Pascarell, president of Nfrastructure, which provides information technology services for the high-tech world, said his company is following a similar timeline and is looking to fill up to 50 positions.

“There is always potential for more,” he said.

As for the Army Corps permits, which have been a holdup for the chip fabrication site for years, the Corps’ Buffalo office spokesman said there is progress.

“We have made significant progress on stream mitigation and are continuing to process the permit application,” he said in an email.

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