ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday the Finger Lakes region is “primed to power the next generation of research and good-paying tech jobs.

With billions of dollars for the National Science Foundation on the horizon, the senator is pushing for federal investment in Rochester, and that’s why he invited NSF Director, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, on a tour Monday at the University of Rochester so he could witness firsthand the research facilities on campus.

“I personally brought NSF Director, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, to the University of Rochester to see firsthand how uniquely suited the Finger Lakes region is to receive further federal investment and drive not only the Upstate economy into the future, but the entire nation’s,” Schumer said.

According to Schumer, the Finger Lakes region is poised to drive American innovation and jobs. He says the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) is slated to significantly increase federal investment in research and workers while strengthening domestic manufacturing to fix supply chain issues and lower costs for working families. According to Schumer, UR’s Laser Lab, and a “topnotch workforce” makes Rochester ready to “supercharge” U.S. tech leadership.

“We must increase investment in research and manufacturing to boost our nation’s global competitiveness and create good-paying jobs for working families across the Finger Lakes region and Upstate New York,” Schumer said.

Schumer said the U.S. position as the global leader in innovation is under pressure from other countries like China. He pointed to decades of “underinvestment” as a reason why U.S. competitiveness is being compromised. The Senate Majority leader advocated for funding, saying that “it is only a matter of time” before America’s global competitors “overtake the U.S. in terms of tech and economic growth, as well as national security.”

“The stakes are enormous. If we do not invest now in the research, development, and manufacturing of the technologies of today and of the future, we will be vulnerable to continued supply chain challenges that raise costs on working families and jeopardize U.S. jobs, U.S. competitiveness, and national security,” Schumer said.

The aforementioned reasons are part of the reason why the senator invited the NSF director to Rochester Monday, so he could see a glimpse of the region’s research facilities that can ” continue to make groundbreaking discoveries to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in critical technologies. “

“NSF’s vision for the future of discovery and innovation is built around the idea of creating robust innovation ecosystems across the country that can drive science and engineering to new heights of success. What we have seen here today is an embodiment of this vision,” Dr. Panchanathan. said.

When discussing why Rochester is well-positioned for investment, Schumer cited a recent study authored by MIT Economists Dr. Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson in their book, “Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream,” which said millions of new jobs could be created through a new federal effort to boost federal funding for the sciences. 

UR President Sarah Mangelsdorf joined the federal leaders for Monday’s tour and said the university is ready to be a leader in scientific discovery.

“Our long-standing partnership with NSF is pushing the frontiers of science and engineering, growing a diverse workforce, expanding our technological capacity, and accelerating innovation to drive US global competitiveness,” Mangelsdorf said. “We strongly believe that the University of Rochester and the greater Finger Lakes region as a whole are well-positioned to be national leaders in these areas.”

Officials from Schumer’s office said the senator led USICA to Senate passage in June of last year. The House passed its companion legislation, the America COMPETES Act earlier this year and last week Schumer took a step toward the bill advancing to final passage, announcing Conferees to the Conference Committee to reconcile differences between the Senate and House passed bills in order to send final legislation to the President to sign into law.

“As we seek to leverage Rochester’s many unique assets to benefit our national economy, I’m honored to have been appointed to the Conference Committee to advance the America COMPETES and USICA legislation,” said Rep. Joe Morelle, who participated in Monday’s UR tour. “I look forward to the work ahead to strengthen America’s global competitiveness, grow our economic interests, and bolster our workforce.”

From the senator’s office

Schumer highlighted several programs in USICA that could bolster current research and manufacturing efforts in Rochester, including:

  • Increasing investment for NSF Research and Development Programs and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and training programs. Schumer said that research institutions like the University of Rochester and technical training schools like Monroe Community College are in a strong position to compete for these federal funds. The legislation also incorporates a series of new programs, including programs for STEM education for underrepresented populations and skilled technical education to prepare workers for tech jobs.
  • Launching a new Directorate of Technology and Innovation at the NSF to support R&D in key technologies by increasing STEM education, building regional innovation centers, and supporting technology transfer and entrepreneurship programs. Schumer said that a major increase in this kind of federal support puts cutting-edge facilities like the OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester and the region’s other research institutions in a unique position to benefit from further federal investment. 
  • Scaling up federal investment in supply chains and American manufacturing, including $2.4 billion for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $1.2 billion for the Manufacturing USA program. This investment would nearly quadruple the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which funds centers like NextCorps in Rochester to assist small and mid-sized manufacturers. Schumer’s bill also includes $52 billion in federal funds to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing, including at sites like AIM Photonics in Rochester and STAMP in Genesee County, and the bill creates a supply chain resiliency program to bring manufacturing back to America and help address supply chain vulnerabilities that are driving up costs on working families and disrupting the economy.
  • Create a new $10 billion Regional Technology Hubs program through the Department of Commerce to support regional economic development efforts to build hubs around the country to not only research and innovate technologies but also manufacture them here in America. The technology hubs would carry out efforts on strengthening manufacturing and domestic supply chains, workforce training, business and entrepreneur development, technology transfer and commercialization, and infrastructure improvements to boost innovation and manufacturing across the country.

Schumer touted work being done at the following Rochester research facilities and tech programs as further examples of what could be supercharged to create new good-paying jobs via new investment provided through USICA:

  • The University of Rochester Laser Lab which supports nearly 900 Rochester jobs for scientists, engineers and technicians.  As a premier institution training the next generation of leaders in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, LLE is an economic development magnet that spins off local high tech jobs and attracts scientific talent to Rochester. Many Rochester companies including Sydor Technologies, QED Technologies, and Lucid were created as a result of the Lab and now employ hundreds of workers. 
  • The NextCorps High Tech business incubator located in the Sibley Building downtown which has helped create over 1,200 new jobs by helping over 350 local manufacturers and high tech start-ups to grow – businesses like Plug Power which just opened a new 380-job Green Hydrogen Gigafactory in Henrietta.
  • UR’s Center for Quantum Electrodynamics – Rochester researchers here are pushing the boundaries to use quantum advances to make transformative new molecules and catalysts.  Plus they are developing the foundational building blocks needed to make quantum computing a reality.
  • UR’s Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures which is one of only 11 NSF Physics Frontier Centers nationwide that is making groundbreaking discovery in physics.