Photonics HQ location settled


The first fight around a new national photonics institute is over, and it looks like everyone got a little bit of something. 

Rochester academic and political leaders were at odds with officials from SUNY Polytechnic Institute over where to put the institute's headquarters. The local people wanted it at the Sibley Building, while SUNY Poly leaders wanted it at Legacy Tower.

After a highly visible — and frankly, embarrassing — public quarrel, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in and a compromise was reached: the business offices will go in Legacy Tower, while companies, incubator space, and a workforce development center will be in the Sibley Building, according to a press release from Cuomo's office. A building at Eastman Business Park will be the institute's key manufacturing space.

"In a sense, everyone gets a win," State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle told media this morning. "This has been decided, now we can really move ahead."

The manufacturing space is crucial, Morelle says, since that's what has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to Rochester.

The institute is officially known as the American Institute for Manufacturing Photonics: a Department of Defense program that'll be spread across the country. The DOD is investing $110 million toward the effort, which is intended to rapidly advance ultra-cutting-edge technology for use in telecommunications, computing, medical devices, defense systems, and to build domestic capacity for manufacturing the technologies. 

SUNY Research Foundation, SUNY Polytechnic, University of Rochester, and RIT led the winning application for the institute, and that push was backed by $250-million in commitments from both the state of New York and photonics industry groups. The application included a Rochester headquarters for the institute.

The headquarters dispute started in mid August, when SUNY Poly officials suddenly announced that the HQ would be at Legacy Tower. Local leaders, including Morelle and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, were furious: UR is supposed to be an equal partner in the institute and SUNY Poly officials hadn't discussed the matter with them, they said. Nor was the decision made within an agreed upon operating framework, they said.