August 19, 2011
By: by Tom Tobin
The former Infotonics center in Canandaigua, which wandered in the high-tech wilderness for many years, took another step Thursday in its revival as Moser Baer Technologies Inc. opened a multimillion-dollar manufacturing project at the center.
With local officials and politicians in attendance, the company ceremoniously began transforming part of the Ontario County facility into a 9,400-square-foot space where it will build state-of-the-art lighting panels.
The manufacturing unit is expected to be finished early next year and working by April. The immediate goal is to hire 60 people.
Eventually, if manufacturing needs expand, 150 workers may be added for clean-room and other manufacturing-related duties. Moser Baer is working with Finger Lakes Community College to develop a training program for prospective clean-room employees.
The project is being assisted with $3 million in federal funds, a matching grant from the state and a $17 million commitment from Moser Baer, an India-based multinational company specializing in optical storage media such as compact discs.
The Moser Baer deal follows the Canandaigua center's merger last year with the increasingly powerful College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York at Albany. The center is now called the Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center of Excellence - STC for short.
STC has become the manufacturing and processing arm of the college, which is a leader in researching and developing computer chip and nanoscale technology. Recently, a top Silicon Valley electronics firm, NanoLab Technologies, announced a $1.5 million deal with the Albany college for research and laboratory work.
At the Canandaigua center, Moser Baer Technologies, which is the U.S. division of the India company, will build organic light-emitting diode lighting panels. It will be the first such manufacturing entity in the United States.
OLED units - they're actually flat rather than bulb-shaped - are more energy efficient and produce far less heat than traditional artificial light.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who was at Thursday's groundbreaking, said the construction deal almost foundered when promised federal funds were threatened. Matching funds from the state and Moser Baer's commitment helped save the project.
"We're beginning to see the marriage of STC and CSNE bear fruit," Schumer said, using the acronym for the SUNY Albany college. "This is about jobs, and this is the sort of thing we are looking for in that respect.
"Those who worry about the future of upstate New York should be with us here. I will be pushing as hard as I can to get more jobs here."
To that end, Schumer said the STC center is a strong candidate for a $30 million U.S. Department of Defense project to create a secure computer chip fabrication facility. The military uses nanoscale chip technology to build a variety of weapons and sensors. The STC center has the capability and clearances to do the work now, as opposed to other applicants that lack either certification or chip capacity.
"We're ready now to do the work," STC executive director Paul Tolley said.
Schumer said he placed a phone call to new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta - they were roommates when both served in the House - to urge the selection of the STC center.
"He didn't know anything about Canandaigua," Schumer said. "He was impressed."
The potential for upstate jobs in this kind of high-skill chip manufacturing is enormous, said Alain Kaloyeros, CEO of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
"There are so many more victories yet to come," he said.