February 09, 2011
By: by The Post-Standard Editorial Board, Syracuse.com
It sounded like an off-the-cuff remark. But it landed like a thud in Syracuse economic development circles.
Ken Adams, who heads the New York State Business Council, made his controversial comment after being nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take over the Empire State Development Corp. In an interview, he talked about developing 10 regional economic development councils to spur job growth, and warned against the "political fantasy" that each region can pursue the same opportunities. Then he said:
"And that means being very clear that the Capital Region, for example, is the official home of nanoscale science. Period. If someone comes along and says, ‘I want to do nanoscale science in Syracuse,' they should be taken out to the woodshed. You can't do it."
Was Adams just making a theoretical point? Or was he really scuttling a $28 million project that promises to make Central New York a job-producing engine in the state's rollout of nanotechnology development?
There's nothing wrong with regional job-creation strategies. Robert Simpson of CEO CenterState in Syracuse is an advocate of "cluster" economic development. He and his economic development colleagues are in sync with the Brookings Institution's tilt toward "smart metropolitan strategies" that focus on existing industries and research expertise. There is already a consensus that Central New York has potential in the areas of clean energy, indoor air quality and biotechnology.
Central New York also is home to Lockheed Martin, a major local employer and one of the nation's premier defense contractors specializing in radar and sonar technology. Last fall, Lockheed officials joined Simpson and other local leaders to announce plans for a state-sponsored nanotechnology research and development center at the former General Electric campus in Salina. Lockheed Martin would get the facilities it needs to apply nanotechnology and develop new commercial and military products. Other high-tech firms could do the same. A second tenant already has signed up to co-locate at the Salina site with Lockheed, and there is room to grow.
Far from duplicating the mammoth nanotechnology enterprise in the Capital District, this complementary project has the full support of SUNY Albany's College for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Alain E. Kaloyeros, chief executive officer of the CNSE, spoke in Syracuse last fall about the value of outreach to his institution's mission, which has leveraged $800 million in state support to generate $5 billion in private investment.
"We evolve from the Kremlin to the Acropolis - you've got to share," he said. "High-tech companies must innovate or die - including Lockheed, a leader in defense systems. The value of the co-location model is that it brings suppliers close to business users. The exchange of ideas is more dynamic."
The state collaboration with Lockheed in Syracuse is designed to add value to Albany's enterprise. This is no boondoggle or political fantasy, but a calculated strategy to extend the benefits of the successful CNSE venture. By the time Ken Adams faces Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, at confirmation hearings, all this should be clear to the state's designated economic development chief.