State officials expect the Buffalo Niagara Advanced Manufacturing Institute to have a permanent home sometime in 2016.
When that happens, Erie Community College plans to be a significant partner.
That's big news for the institute and the college, which have been associated for several years but whose future relationship has remained ambiguous. The University at Buffalo is already a partner in the institute, a significant Buffalo Billion project that is being temporarily housed rent-free at 847 Main St., a building owned by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.
The institute is being supported by $45 million in New York state funds and operated by Columbus-based EWI, which aims to be financially self-sufficient within five years.
ECC will contribute money to its own academic space in the institute for new programs, including advanced training in advanced manufacturing and degree programs in energy and mechatronics. ECC is the lead entity in a broad SUNY application for a $20 million federal grant that would fund the development of mechantronics programs.
If SUNY receives that grant, it will fund the development of ECC's program and also likely the development of academic space, said Richard Washousky, executive vice president for academic affairs.
ECC's president, Jack Quinn, board chair, Stephen Boyd, and Washousky met several weeks ago with Christina Orsi, Empire State Development's regional director and a key administrator of the Buffalo Billion funds, to explain their plans and receive updates on the project. Orsi could not be reached for comment.
It's one of three proposed downtown projects for ECC. That list includes a second phase of development resulting from the JMZ Architects and Planners study. That study has been used as impetus, and justification, for ECC's controversial decision to site its $30 million STEM building on its Amherst campus instead of downtown. But JMZ will now analyze ECC's programs, especially nursing, for new space downtown.
Finally, ECC's development of a nanotechnology program has taken some significant steps forward recently. The college has formally applied for approval of the program from the state, and still awaits a $5.7 million state grant application to fund equipment and start-up costs. If that grant is awarded, state officials have said the program must be located in downtown Buffalo. If the grant doesn't come through, ECC's nanotech program will likely begin on the Amherst campus.
ECC started its program based on developments in Albany, where the nanotechnology industry has flourished around the ever-expanding College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Quinn recently traveled to Albany to meet Alain Kaloyeros, president and CEO of CNSE. The next day, Kaloyeros sent over a memorandum of understanding between the two colleges which Quinn expects to sign. The document establishes a formal partnership between the colleges and gives ECC a powerful ally in establishing a nanotechnology footprint.
Quinn updated ECC's trustees on that development at Wednesday's board meeting, and the news received a warm welcome.
"We could be on the cusp of something huge here," Boyd said.