President Obama's visit to GE in Schenectady last week signaled a new focus on the economy with the goal of increasing American manufacturing. It's why the President says the Capital Region is a model for the rest of the country. Our Steve Ference spoke with UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science Engineering Vice President and CEO Alain Kaloyeros, who shares mixed feelings about the future of Tech Valley.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- "You at this plant are showing us a way forward," said President Obama, highlighting upstate economic progress with several trips touting nanotechnology, green jobs, and energy manufacturing - a theme that's central to his State of the Union address.
"We've become the model for high-tech investments in R&D and education and economic development, not only in the U.S., but globally," said Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, the Senior Vice President and CEO of the UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
He's one of the local leaders credited with turning the high-tech vision into reality. While many areas of the nation struggle, area students are getting hands-on lessons in computer chip fabrication or advanced batteries. Tie that to the production of turbines and solar cells at GE, the consortium of businesses making semiconductors at UAlbany and that massive GlobalFoundries chip plant in Malta, and it may be just what the doctor ordered for long-term economic growth.
"Honestly, my hope is with the right investments in place, you could walk from Fishkill to Albany to Malta to Saratoga on the inside," said Dr. Kaloyeros.
But that growth comes with a cost: hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state tax breaks or incentives to entice the industry to New York. And Kaloyeros points out that the GE advanced battery plant applied for federal stimulus money, but didn't get a dime. The President came anyway, using GE as a way forward.
Dr. Kaloyeros said, "It's unfortunate the federal government has not stepped up to the plate to put the investments, not just here or New York or across the US - the critical mass that's needed to compete with China or the European Union."
Because while Kaloyeros sees 10,000 to 13,000 jobs being created in the next few years here, he worries that, like it or not, without major national investment, other countries willing to spend will get the jobs.
"And if China is going to pour $20-30 billion a year in it, we better be ready to provide the right level of investments to continue building and expanding it," said Dr. Kaloyeros.
All of this, perhaps leading to a clash of philosophies as conservatives look to cut budgets and encourage private business growth, others arguing that public-private partnerships are the only way to remain competitive. A debate playing out from our backyard to Washington - and around the world.
Watch the full interview below:
Albany/HV: UAlbany nanotech expert discusses concerns for the future
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