Later this year, we'll learn the winners of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative; three regions in Upstate New York will each receive $500 million in economic development funding from the state. The decision will be based, more or less, on detailed documents outlining each region's plan for investing the money.
The plans are currently being put together; the regional economic development councils have until October 5 to submit them. During a meeting today, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council heard an update on its plan from representatives of the Boston Consulting Group, the firm assisting the council with the project.
The representatives said that three areas have emerged as focus industries for the Finger Lakes region:
- the optics, photonics, and imaging industry;
- the food and agriculture industry;
- higher education and research.
The whole point of the plan is for local economic development officials to identify industries that are "uniquely able to grow" in the region, said Simonida Subotic, a Boston Consulting Group rep. And the three areas have numbers and unique factors behind them that show that they're already woven into the local economy, she said, and could spur substantial growth here.
The optics, photonics, and imaging industry has deep roots in Rochester, since the city is the birthplace of Kodak and Bausch + Lomb. Last year, the US Department of Defense announced that it would fund an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute somewhere in the country, and the Research Foundation of SUNY submitted an application on behalf of the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, and approximately 90 other academic and industry groups. Under the application, the institute would be based in the Rochester area.
The state has committed to $250 million in funding for the institute, while House Representative Louise Slaughter and Senator Chuck Schumer have aggressively supported the application.
The Finger Lakes region already accounts for approximately 25 percent of New York's agricultural output, said David Webb, another Boston Consulting Group representative. And over the next five years, over $1 billion in private investment is expected within the Finger Lakes food and ag industry, he said.
Likewise, over the last five years, the region's 19 higher-education institutions have conducted $2.5 billion in research, he said.
The consultants touched on other aspects of the plan, too, including its connection to the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. The Upstate Revitalization Initiative application will emphasize the need for job-training programs, Webb said, and will have to articulate why they are important for advancing the Finger Lakes plan.
"This is how the Finger Lakes is going to be able to survive and thrive," Webb said.