Corning will be the only New York firm in Obama initiative

Jun 27, 2011

When President Obama announced a new, half-billion-dollar manufacturing initiative last Friday, his goals were lofty:

“This partnership is about new, cutting-edge ideas to create new jobs, spark new breakthroughs, reinvigorate American manufacturing today, right now -- not somewhere off in the future, right now,” he said.

To nurture that spark, the Obama administration is providing the cash, and a handful of top universities and corporations are providing the expertise.

For upstate New York - where manufacturing is a big deal - this would seem like great news.

But of the 6 universities and 11 companies selected to participate in the president's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), only one is headquartered in New York state.  

So ... not so great news.

New York's sole representative is Corning (here's a map of AMP participants).

"A few days ago, President Obama's office reached out to our CEO, Wendell Weeks, and asked if Corning would participate in this initiative," says Dan Collins, the company's chief spokesman. "And we are happy to do so."

Collins says the high-tech glass maker isn't entirely sure what the partnership will entail at this point, but Corning will be working with companies like Intel and Caterpillar, along with universities like Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech.

But that leaves a lot of New York institutions with a heavy focus on manufacturing innovation left out in the cold: no RIT, no UAlbany, no Kodak, and no GE.

"You can't have everybody involved," says Nabil Nasr, director of RIT's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies. "You have to have a number that represents the broader group to be able to get started."

Nasr and other manufacturing experts say more than $500 million in funding will be needed if Obama wants to turn his spark into an advanced manufacturing inferno.

But, nevertheless, Nasr says RIT will be keeping an eye on the new program.

"We definitely will be watching closely," says Nasr, "and if there is a role for us to play, we will be there."