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Destination, New York’s Capital Region:
Success Today, Opportunity Tomorrow

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

CREDC Co-Chair Presentation to the Strategic Plan Review Committee
The New York State Capitol Building
Albany, New York

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good morning. I am Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here to present the Strategic Plan of the Capital Region Economic Development Council. First, I must express my gratitude to Michael Castellana, my Co-Chair in this endeavor, the many members of the Council and workgroups, and the members of the public whose collective and collaborative efforts have led us to this moment. We are proud to articulate an exciting and dynamic future for our Capital Region through this Strategic Plan.

I turn to my co-chair Michael Castellana.

(Presentation of video)

The video provided a view of the diversity of talented people and assets our region has. We have developed strategies to bring these strong elements together in synergistic ways. As we worked, our greatest strength was revealed — collaboration and teamwork.

Our vision is of a Capital Region Economic Ecosystem that is

  • Locally collaborative,
  • Globally competitive, and
  • Economically vibrant.

...where the private sector, academia, and government work together to stimulate economic growth, and make the Region a destination of choice for business, international investment, and talented individuals.

To realize our vision, we will build on our strengths and assets, leverage our assets, tackle the barriers to our success, understand and capitalize on the opportunities before us, and develop or attract the resources necessary to further grow our economy. We will support small business development, encourage and assist entrepreneurs, attract the best and brightest students to our colleges and universities, and retain talent in the region.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest strengths of our region is its natural beauty. Our mountains, lakes, farmlands, forests, and rivers attract tourists and enhance the quality of life for our citizens.

We also have cultural venues and historic sites that provide understanding of our region, New York State, and the Nation.

We have a diverse and growing economy. An economy that has experienced:

  • Major Firm Expansion
  • Multiple Start-ups
  • Stable Small & Medium Enterprises, and a
  • Strong Agricultural Sector

We have world-class higher education institutions that attract people of great talent and skill. We will drive discovery and innovation within our research organizations, and move ideas from the lab to the marketplace, to create the jobs and industries of tomorrow.

Our region already is known for technological innovation in the very fields that have been identified as critical to our century:

  • Nanotechnology
  • High-Performance Computing
  • Green Technology
  • Biotechnology

These disciplines have attracted significant public and private investment. Leveraging these investments builds on another key strength — our access to both international and major domestic markets.

Our goals provide the framework for the strategies the Council will implement through this plan. They were informed by input from thousands of individuals from throughout the Region. Information was gathered through public forums, Council meetings, and Web-based surveys, in addition to meetings with multiple stakeholder groups, including business leaders, higher education leaders, the non-profit community, economic developers, the media, representatives of the agricultural community, and entrepreneurs.

Through this plan, we will create a 21st Century Infrastructure that will enhance existing assets in communications, computation, transportation, and energy.

We will expand our economy by improving and adding access to financial capital.

We will capitalize on and strengthen our Research Universities.

We will build stronger, mutually beneficial partnerships, collaborations, and coalitions – across multiple sectors in our region.

We will revitalize our urban areas.

We will attract visitors, talent, customers, and businesses, by better marketing our region – showcasing a distinctive brand and updated expressions of our identity.

Ours is an ambitious plan that takes full of advantage of the talents of our people, the insight of our programs, and the power of our platforms. By implementing the comprehensive strategies laid out in this plan, we will become an ever more competitive, inviting, and attractive region for people and business.

The potential of the Capital Region is exemplified through our transformative projects and initiatives that are designed to:

  • Leverage $487 million in private funding (with attendant economic growth) from an investment of $45 million in state resources;
  • Leverage nearly $11 in private sector investment for every $1 invested by the State; and,
  • Create thousands of jobs.

We are seeking funding for six Broadly Transformative Projects; for fifteen Locally and Economically Significant Transformative Projects; and we are endorsing five Transformative Initiatives that seek no additional funding through this Plan, but are critical to New York State.

As part of our process, we also reviewed nearly 400 CFA Projects.

We prioritized them based on:

  • Alignment with Transformative Evaluation Criteria
  • Alignment with CFA Endorsement Criteria
  • Linkage to CREDC Strategic Plan and Transformative Initiatives.

Let me briefly describe the six Broadly Transformative Projects.

Reaching new markets, of course, relies on communications systems that are of sufficient power and reliability to bring our citizens into full participation in world commerce. We need broadband capacity that is both far-reaching and capable of the kind of traffic that links multiple enterprises and individuals to markets, and brings data to powerful computational systems and returns answers that provide competitive advantage.

Such systems will enable the whole region to benefit from the talent, skill, and capability of citizens irrespective of where they live. Through incentives and funding, we intend to expand the Region’s broadband coverage in underserved areas by at least ten percent over the next five years.

High performance computation is a key enabler for research, industrial productivity, and sustainable smart environments. Therefore, we must make the computational capabilities that already are present in the Capital Region even more powerful. Doing so will enable the modeling and simulation of complex processes that will lead to enhanced productivity, competitive advantage, medical breakthroughs, and entirely new industries. Moreover, that powerful computational capacity can be utilized in all of our other transformative projects and initiatives.

Our region currently has one of the fastest university-based supercomputers in the country – at terascale speeds. But exascale computing is coming and is a disruptive technology – a technology in which the federal government intends to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Petascale computing – sitting between these two scales (and capable of making one quadrillion operations per second) – is a critical enabler of exascale computing. Petascale computational capability will bring one of the World’s first such supercomputers to New York State, positioning New York and the Capital Region as an international leader, and make the Region an anchor for a State-wide high performance computing network.

High performance computation will bring benefits to key science and technology areas. Analysis of stem cell properties and behavior in living systems will improve health. Many believe graphene is the next silicon for nanoelectronics. Understanding and development of graphene could be accelerated by simulation and modeling. Entirely new nanomaterials can be created through the application of powerful computing systems. Understanding the data from power grids and responding in real-time to changing consumption and load patterns could optimize our electricity usage. Likewise, smart approaches to transportation system design and management are critical as the economic activity of the region increases. This requires that we upgrade and manage infrastructure, including modeling, sensing, and coordinating transportation in ways that are truly “smart.”

We can take on global challenges, including better monitoring of financial markets through the use of intelligent agents. We can lead in stewardship of our planet through deep analysis of new materials for wind and solar power, storage, and other technologies that are essential for a more sustainable economy.

Each of these examples requires tremendous computational power.

So, with petascale computing, we can attract, even double, federal funding coming into the Capital Region. We would expand supercomputer access from today’s seven hundred users to up to two thousand, increase productivity for existing businesses by thirty percent, and bring six thousand new jobs into our area. This Transformative Project initially will leverage $125 million in private funding from the State’s $25 million investment.

We already have excellent centers of research in the technologies that are the most promising for our century. Nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, green technologies, high performance computing, and more already draw the technological and scientific world’s attention to the Capital Region. The New York Capital Research Alliance will enable even more creative, exciting, and impactful work to be done.

This proposal creates a systematic way for our research organizations to work together, create joint proposals, and share resources and ideas. For instance, the combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology, along with the ability to model new materials, will create new ways to improve health and fight disease. Through the establishment of the Research Alliance with a State investment of $4.5 million over five years, we expect to increase NIH funding by five percent, increase all other federal funding by twenty-five percent, and increase privately funded research by ten percent — which will increase research funding overall by $120 million.

The proposed Food and Agriculture Product Collaborative Procurement Portal will bring together our food producers and consumers in a way that meets the needs of all groups, and provides an important foundation for bringing local goods and services to new markets. The agriculture industry today generates nearly $10 billion in annual revenue from 3,300 businesses. The Portal will enable our farmers and local producers to achieve ten percent of the market share of food product spending by our schools and health care institutions. A pilot under this project will target use of the Portal by at least three hundred of our farms and local food businesses.

A ten percent market penetration will leverage a $250,000 State investment into $11 million in additional annual spend going to our local farmers.

To support our most entrepreneurial people in growing their businesses or in starting new ones, we will create the Capital Region Access to Solutions Program Center/Foundation for Success Loan Fund.

This initiative will support all businesses through two mechanisms:

1) a business concierge to shepherd businesses through barriers to growth, and

2) a $100 million private investment revolving loan fund to assist at least one thousand entrepreneurs and small businesses.

This project will leverage $776,000 in State investment to over $102 million for our Region.

The Capital Region has much to offer visitors. The richness and attractiveness of these offerings must be marketed in a more coordinated, appealing, and targeted way through an initiative aimed at Enhancing Tourism. We will increase collaboration, and establish at least three linked arts and cultural events by 2016, and develop a solid brand platform by the first quarter of 2012 to increase tourism throughout our Region. We have identified specific projects that, if achieved, would leverage $5.5 million State investment into over $193 million in private investment,

Our diversity and deep expertise give us opportunities not only to strengthen the Capital Region, but also to be a laboratory for initiatives that can be scaled to both larger and smaller environments.

You can see from our transformative projects and initiatives, that we are not interested in incremental changes to our region’s economy. We see the chance to catalyze the creation of new industries and advanced approaches, which will lead to the jobs, prosperity, and quality of life that come from pursuing excellence.

I look forward to your response to the proposals within our plan, and I thank you for your attention.

Now I ask Michael to tell you about how we developed the plan, how we will operationalize it, and how we will meet the State’s Criteria.     

Thank you.

Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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