Thursday, July 16, 2009

Partnership, Linking, Collaboration, Leveraging . . .

"Partnership," "linking," "collaboration," "leveraging". . . all positive sounding buzz words that can be found in the Sentinel's coverage yesterday of the big announcement of ... What was it that they call it???
The cross-regional partnership will develop a state-of-the-art high tech business incubator/technology accelerator at SUNYIT.
The words being used to describe this venture should be red-flags that taxpayer money is about to be blown, and that it will be a lucky break if anything of lasting value results.

It is not just the (partial) string of broken promises listed in yesterday's post that makes many skeptical.

A First cause for skepticism is the conflicting sizes given for the new building presented in various press accounts: 60,000 square feet in an Albany Business Journal article and the initial OD posting, and 200,000 square feet today. That is a pretty significant difference to not know which -- a signal that maybe this is just another half-baked "pie-in-the-sky" announcement like we've heard before.

A Second cause for skepticism is that it's not clear exactly what they will build at SUNYIT. What is "a state-of-the-art high tech business incubator/technology accelerator" anyway? The Albany Business Journal describes it this way:
The 60,000 square foot facility at SUNYIT will act as a commercialization center and business incubator to attract chip suppliers and contractors. It will also house class labs, faculty offices and other support space for the college’s School of Information Systems and Engineering Technology.
While even that description is vague, the part about the class labs, faculty offices and support space for the college at least gives a partial picture. Per Today's Sentinel (thank heaven for the Sentinel getting some details!):
the center will include a coveted "clean room" facility that provides a specialized environment for developing chip technologies ...
That could be encouraging because it sounds like it is something relatively unique in the region (which might attract business users) -- but is that really the case? What is the market for a "clean room" and where are competing "clean rooms?" Can companies use clean rooms but be located elsewhere? And if this is an "incubator," of sorts, isn't that what Griffiss Institute turned into after its "world class" research facility amounted to zero? About the only things that seem to hatch from "incubators" around here are jobs for our industrial development officials.

Per today's Sentinel:
The partnership also creates a joint educational and training curriculum between the SUNYIT School of Information Systems and Engineering Technology and the Albany college that would prepare workers for careers in computer chip integration and deployment.
. . . And That is the Third cause for skepticism: We've seen "educational partnerships" before in the "Griffiss Institute" and the "Center for Brownfield Studies" and a "joint curriculum" with the latter. While "partnerships" and "joint"-anything may sound good, they ignore the reality that educational institutions DO compete with each other. In the case of Griffiss Institute and Brownfield Center, they never worked out.

It seems that we are being led down a well trodden path -- again.


Anonymous said...

The Griffiss Institute and Brownfield Center were not directly part of an institution of higher learning.This initiative is. That will at least help draw smart people into the area, something we sorely need. On the other hand, research and development onits own guarntees nothing. We've had Rome Labs here for a long time in various configurations and yet the tech transfer from militiary to civilian to new private enterprise has been limited at best. The central unknown is how local political and business interests parlay the new opportunity over future decades. The historical track record is not good. Perhaps that can be reversed. Only time and local leadership will tell.

onjeesun said...

The whole thing initially scares me, but it's too early to tell. Check this out though. SUNYIT just finished putting up new signs at their entrances and the one just off Rt 12 is leaning north. Take a look next time you drive by. The darn thing is crooked! Talk about making a bad first impression, not to mention the sign probably cost $50,000. Last year's tuition increase going to good work!

Anonymous said...

Part of the problemm in understanding this lab lie with reporting. The key to the project is not the building; it is the equipment and professors that operate within the building. No one seems to address those details, yet. If and when they are defined, the effort may be judged in terms of both its seriousness and potential.

Anonymous said...

As with most opportunities, the results will depend on people who manage the opportunity and its potential. One would hope that the EDGE will be kept far away. Their track recors is awful. And, have you ever seen or heard Dimeo and his staffers? The best hope is for the area to bring in a top level person to direct the facility and its relationships.

Strikeslip said...

I have to agree with you Anonymous #3 -- There was a certain amount of "chit"-calling with this project (if I'm using the term correctly) . . . . state political leaders paying off political debts . . . or putting a stop to nagging by the local leaders.

Whatever it is, just because we got something doesn't mean that it will amount to anything. Griffiss Institute did not and Center for Brownfields did not. Both of the latter were dependent upon other institutions and failed because of it. While Albany Nano is doing wonders for the Albany economy (thanks to billions of taxpayer dollars) it does not mean that we will see any results here. I am uncomfortable with Albany running things.

Someone with a local interest will have to nurture this project to make sure that it does not die on the vine. However, does anyone really believe that Albany will allow SUNYIT to develop a potential rival program?

I hope President Yeigh is up to the task.

SmallBizMan said...

Let's face it...

What is a travesty is that most of the population (that votes) may squawk a little now and then, but then gets in the voting booth and squanders their vote, to vote the same old, same old, back in.
Look at how many "lifers" we have.
They may start out with the best of intentions, but that idealism lasts maybe a year or two.

Real change has to come from the bottom up, not the other way around.Until we can have strong, reform minded leadership in the MV that won't pander and sell out to Albany, bankers, and cronies, we're like a barge stuck in the muck and mire in Harbor Point.

Start by voting out the "lifers".
That will send a signal that enough is enough, do the job you were hired to, or we'll get someone who will.

Anonymous said...

Small Biz Man:

There is the "Young person spiral" that I often see in Utica that keeps the old guard employed.

1) Why aren't young people staying/coming here?
[we respond]
2) Stop being so negative! You should provide answers, not just complain!
[we respond]
3) Shut up! It's good enough here! We don't need to make those changes! Why are you such a negative nancy?
[we respond]
4) If that is your attitude, then you can LEAVE!
[we respond: Okay!]
5) ...Wait... you're leaving? WHYYY??? [go back to line #1]

There is a very conservationist attitude here, and it won't go away because the young people who want changes are being pushed out while the older population that are afraid of change are staying.

Anonymous said...

Always great insight from Strikeslip. I fear this is just more taxpayer dollars to create more government jobs and no true growth through private enterprise. Sounds like the same song on the national level -- if he we spend trillions of taxpayer dollars, we will create new government jobs that will never end. Those government jobs will snuff out private enterprise and we will have fewer taxable entities left to pay the enormous bill.

Anonymous said...

The research facility creates governemnt jobs in the educational field. They will be government jobs since SUNYIT is a public institution.The technology transfer is to assist both the private sector and those buddy business "creators" who will utilize the incubator.

Dave said...

Yup, just another day of empire building for SUNY. Hire whomever to staff the "partnership" center, provide T1 lines, central secretarial help, and cheap rental space for start-ups (who can't start up, because financing has dried up.) Call it an incubator with the addition of some lab use concessions and access to technical advice from Professors who often have begun to fall behind the cutting edge when they bailed out of industry for university jobs. Unless we're talking about a leading academic institution like MIT, which we're not. Then quietly die in a few years, but keep everyone on staff and look for new opportunities.
We've seen all this before.