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Tom Battley

Executive Director, New York Photonics

Years in current role: 18

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Witnessing the growth of the Optics and Photonics industry in the 21st century, especially in the Finger Lakes Region. Making connections. Facilitating workforce development and career opportunities. Playing my small roll in our industry during the century of the photon, which is moving so quickly that it is becoming the century of quantum, made possible by photonics. It still feels exhilarating after all these years.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?

The challenge created by the COVID pandemic and its effect on in-person meetings is difficult to overstate. That and the uncertainty brought on by international disruptions.

Zoom and Teams and Webex are amazing technologies, made possible by the movement of data over fiber incidentally — photonics — but they are efficiency tools. In-person meetings and conferences might be somewhat messy and unpredictable, but so much innovation happens in that sort of environment. Video calls will never replace the serendipity of interacting with one another live. The spontaneity of conversations sparking thought and innovative thinking has been hindered during the pandemic, even though most OPI manufacturers are experiencing a boom in production.

What has been your organization’s biggest success over the past year?

New York Photonics and our members charted the course we are on seven years ago. It developed step by step and we shared it at our annual meetings with updates, first with AIM Photonics, and then with AmeriCOM.

Our goal most recently has been to strengthen the Precision Optics program at MCC, grow our region’s OPI workforce, recreate an innovative effort that had a huge impact on optics manufacturing, one that, incidentally, set the stage for the OPI boom that we are now experiencing: the Center for Optics Manufacturing.

In April 2021 the American Center for Optics Manufacturing, Inc. signed a five year, $34-million contract with the DoD to make this plan a reality: workforce development, supply chain stability, and manufacturing innovation for America’s precision optics manufacturers.

What do you see as the biggest changes in the technology industry over the next year?

At New York Photonics and AmeriCOM we are focused on American manufacturing, and recovering from international supply chain disruptions is going to continue to plague American manufacturers in the coming year.

Another big change will be about people, and building the manufacturing workforce. AmeriCOM is one of 12 initiatives supported by the DoD: the National Imperative for Industrial Skills (NIIS). Each of the 12 is focused on workforce development and manufacturing innovation right here in the United States. Too few Americans see a pathway to prosperity through jobs, positions that offer living wages with good benefits and career-building opportunities, yet too many companies are experiencing a workforce shortage; they’re desperate to hire the new generation of skilled workers. AmeriCOM and our fellow NIIS organizations are fostering the kinds of collaborations that aim to solve this dilemma.

What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?

I am fortunate that my jobs with two nonprofits give me the opportunity to have an impact in the community that many people approach through volunteer work. Professionally that impact has been most rewarding at Monroe Community College and the Rochester Museum and Science Center, the community places where the vectors of education, innovation, science, and making things intersect. I am very proud of the impact that we have been able to make. This doesn’t leave me much time for serving in other ways, but the focus of my meager philanthropic donations, and my gratitude, go to Foodlink, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, and Rochester Contemporary among others. Every day we have so much to be grateful for.

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 50 Technology list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at rbj.net.

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