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Photonics’ promise

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden in July announced Rochester’s selection as the headquarters for the $600 million integrated photonics institute, promising a transformative impact on the region’s economy, the news was greeted with understandable elation. And also some equally understandable questioning about how many jobs might come our way.

Wednesday’s announcement that two leading photonics firms plan to locate and invest here should help persuade many skeptics that the photonics promise is real.

The two companies—Silicon Valley-based Avogy Corp. and Photonica Inc.—will be relocating operations here in partnership with SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Phase-one plans call for Avogy to scale up to high-volume manufacturing in Rochester, with 400 employees by the end of five years. Photonica will create a similar number of jobs in the same time frame.

Suppliers and business partners are expected to create an additional 600 jobs, bringing the total to 1,400.

In dollar terms, this week’s announcement represents a combined investment of roughly $1.6 billion, the governor said.

Any job creation is good, but these aren’t just any jobs: Employees at Avogy, which has developed high-efficiency, low-cost power electronics technology, and Photonica, which boasts next-generation visual and display technologies, are expected to earn very good money.

The commitment by the two companies “will fuel economic growth, create jobs and further secure this region’s place as the photonics capital of the nation,” Mr. Cuomo said.

This, of course, is just a first step. The proposal for the photonics institute projected creation of 7,000 or more jobs as a result of its location here. Achieving that goal will require more hard work and effective collaboration.

But there’s no doubt this week’s announcement sends a loud and clear message. Rochester, with its deep and rich history in optics and imaging, is staking a forceful claim for its place in the photonics future.

3/18/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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