Senators, congressman urge GM to produce ventilators in Rochester

Elected officials are urging General Motors Corp. to begin producing ventilators at the company’s Rochester facility.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle on Tuesday sent word to GM Chairman and CEO Marry Barra to locate ventilator production at GM’s Rochester components plant to help mitigate the severe shortage of the life-saving device.

Schumer, Gillibrand and Morelle in a joint statement explained that the Rochester plant is particularly suitable to support the increased ventilator production because it already is equipped with a large Class 100,000 cleanroom to allow for manufacturing in a sterile environment, in addition to performing high volume assembly, including injection molding and precision laser welding.

The three representatives emphasized that in addition to being equipped to produce the medical equipment, the Rochester workforce also is eager and willing to contribute to the COVID-19 fight, as the leadership of the United Auto Workers Local 1097 informed the senators. UAW Local 1097 represents Rochester’s more than 800 hourly union workers.

“GM is gearing up to contribute to the COVID-19 fight, and our Rochester workforce is eager to help,” Schumer said in the statement. “That kind of enthusiasm for serving the country and New York, which has 5 percent of cases worldwide, should not be ignored. GM’s Rochester plant is ready to go as soon as they get the word. In a fight against a pandemic where decisive action and speed is of utmost importance, there is no time to be wasted. I urge GM to locate its ventilator production at its Rochester plant, providing New York and the rest of the country with life-saving medical equipment ASAP.”

The push comes following GM’s March 20 announcement that it would be joining with Ventec Life Systems in order to produce ventilators needed to treat COVID-19 infected patients with respiratory complications. The partnership allows Ventec access to GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise, vastly increasing Ventec’s capacity to produce ventilators and send them to the coronavirus pandemic’s frontlines, officials said.

“Our community has always come together during times of crisis to help those in need—and we are ready to step up and do our part to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Morelle said. “GM’s Rochester plant is uniquely poised to produce much-needed ventilators and help save lives in our community and across the country. We need to utilize every resource available to address this public health emergency, which is why I urge GM to act swiftly and begin its ventilator production in Rochester immediately.”

GM has made more than $200 million in upgrades in recent years, making it the ideal spot to produce the ventilators, the senators noted.

“The women and men of UAW local 1097 are ready to help out in any way that we can to make life better during this pandemic. We will answer the call to produce medical equipment that is in short supply and so desperately needed at this time. Be assured we will do all in our power to help keep our community and our Nation safe during this global crisis,” said Dan Maloney, president of UAW Local 1097.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Funding plan secured in record amount for Laser Lab

Funding for the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics has been agreed upon in a record amount for five years, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

Schumer on Friday shared an announcement of the Laser Lab’s $409.9 million “Cooperative Work Agreement” with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The last five-year agreement had expired in 2018.

“This agreement will enable the world-class lab to continue making vital contributions to national security and providing invaluable sources of scientific education and leadership that ultimately support DOE’s mission,” Schumer said.

Michael Campbell, director of the lab, said the plan to provide record amounts of funding reflects the quality of the work, students and research at the lab. He credited Schumer, along with support from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle, with securing the agreement.

“We call him “Prophet Chuck,” Campbell said. Schumer met with NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty in 2018 to help combat cuts in the lab’s budget proposed by the Trump administration.  His talks were key in turning around funding so it would increase then and in the current year. Gordon-Hagerty last visited the lab in August, accompanied by Morelle.

Schumer said,  “I pushed for this new Cooperative Agreement to keep the lab up and running every chance I got because not only does the lab play a paramount role in our national security, but is also vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions of dollars into the region.”

Since 2015, the lab is estimated to have brought $16 million in business to 50 New York companies, including some in Rochester.

The lab employs about 300 scientists locally and receives visits from approximately 400 researchers each year. One of its primary jobs is working on creating energy through fusion and conducting physics research. Its experiments also help test theories for nuclear arms, providing the only way to gain such information since the banning of underground nuclear testing, Schumer noted.

“A lot of things we do start out with a defense application,” Campbell said, citing the science behind automotive GPS systems.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275

UR wins major grant for quantum research

The University of Rochester will receive $1.55 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to support research in quantum computing.

U.S. senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the award Thursday.

They said the funding will help researchers investigate ways to work with and stabilize quantum particles known as qubits and produce educational materials and classes on quantum computing for students in high school through graduate school.

“This federal investment will allow the University of Rochester—one of the world’s leading research universities and a hub of scientific innovation—to become even more of a leader in the burgeoning field of quantum computing that’s brimming with job-creating potential,” Schumer said.

Gillibrand added, “By studying how quantum particles work, this research could change the way we work with computers; and by ensuring that students have access to this research, the university is preparing the future of New York’s scientific workforce.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275

Schumer, Gillibrand include UR laser lab in funding bill

US Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced today that $80 million—a $5 million increase—for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics is included in the Senate version of the energy and water appropriations bill for 2019.

The bill must still be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives, which included $68 million, similar to the budget proposed by President Donald J. Trump. The Senate version rejects a three-year phase out of all federal support, suggested by Trump.

“It’s wonderful news and we’re extremely appreciative for both senators’ continued support for the laboratory,” said LLE Director Mike Campbell. Understanding that the senators were backing them, none of the staff have left and the LLE has even been able to recruit new staff, Campbell said. The laboratory employs about 300 people locally and hosts a similar number of visiting scientists each year who use the equipment there for nuclear experiments.

“This $5 million increase for the University of Rochester Laser lab—that I personally secured last week—will ensure the laser lab can continue safeguarding our nuclear stockpile, expand its world-class research in new energy discovery, and power up this Rochester-Finger Lakes region economic driver, if passed into law,” said Schumer.

The lab, said Gillibrand, “… is an incredible asset to the state and nation. Scientists are drawn to Rochester to conduct cutting-edge research that creates hundreds of good-paying, local jobs and helps drive economic growth and innovation in the region. I was proud to fight for this funding, and I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that the University of Rochester’s Laser Lab has the necessary support to succeed in the years ahead.”

Gillibrand pushed inclusion of the $80 million in the bill in March while Schumer, in his role as minority leader, ensured it remained in the final Senate version of the bill.

Gillibrand offers relief for dairy farmers

With talks about reauthorization of the five-year federal Farm Bill about to begin, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced a bill that would help support the prices dairy farmers are paid for their milk.

Gillibrand said on Tuesday that the system for setting the federal milk price is broken, and her proposed “Dairy Farm Sustainability Act” would provide a federal cushion for farmers when prices drop below the $23 it currently costs to produce 100 pounds of milk (roughly 12 gallons). Set by the federal government and based on a complicated formula, the current price farmers get is $16 per hundredweight.

“This is a crisis for our dairy community and congress needs to fix this problem now,” she said.

The act would “make sure dairy farms don’t go bankrupt every time the prices drop,” the senator said.

Gillibrand’s proposal would pay farmers 45 percent of the difference between the federal milk price and $23. The senator, who sits on the agriculture committee in the Senate, conceded this is a stop-gap measure trying to address a much larger issue.

“We need to create a national conversation about why dairy prices don’t work in this country,” she said.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275