By: Steve Ference
Last week we told you about one area where Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget wouldn't cut funding, like New York's investment in nanotech business. Our Steve Ference got a behind-the-scenes tour of one such facility and shows the behind-the-scenes growth that high-tech leaders say is making such a big difference for so many people and our region.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- At UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, this is what shift-change looks like, only these people aren't making the computer chips, they're responsible for making sure all the complicated nanotechnology actually works.
"Ten years ago when they talked about Tech Valley, we thought, what is it. Boom. Here it is," said Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 7 Business Manager Ed Nadeau.
Nadeau took us on a tour below the floor with all the fancy high-tech machines we've all seen to a world of pipes and wires, what you might call the pulmonary system of nanoscience.
Nadeau said, "We actually invested $1.2 million in a new office and training center. We doubled the size of our training center and added a clean room in our training center."
It's behind the scenes work that bucks the national trend, while plumbers across the country have seen job cuts.
"In 1990 we were right around 900 members. In 2011 we're just shy of 1,100. Which is great," said Nadeau.
Here, it's taken mathematical and scientific skill upgrades to support the work at the college and at the GlobalFoundries chip fab in Malta.
Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Senior VP & CEO, said, "The training they have now, the competitive edge they provide the companies is not only a tool in attracting them here, but also for example the cost of building a clean room at GlobalFoundries is about 25 to 30 percent less than if they came into a new area without that type of skill to build those clean rooms and had to train that workforce from scratch."
"These are good paying jobs, these are jobs with benefits," Nadeau said. "Since 2000 to now, we've done a million man hours here both in construction and as a support staff for retooling the tools when they need it to $50 million in wages and benefits."
Because what's happening upstairs is all being supported by the work being done down here. And it's not just that, but take a look at this: PrecisionFlow Technologies. These are machines that are made down in the Hudson Valley which means all of this has a very big regional impact.
Nadeau says, "It is a global economy now and if we're not ready, we're going to be left behind." Then again, being left behind isn't always bad, as Local 7 member Dan Bliben said, "Normally we build buildings and then move on to the next construction project. Here, we stay for maintenance and the various projects that come up on a short-term basis."
Hundreds of workers, hundreds of jobs you may never see if you tour the nanotech facilities. But they're there, just below the surface of the region's growing high-tech sector.