The new name in non-traditional business lending: Pursuit

Business borrowers who need to seek loans outside of traditional banks now have a single source: Pursuit.

Pursuit is the new name for the New York Business Development Corporation and two nonprofit affiliates, The 504 Company and the Excelsior Growth Fund.

The three entities continue to operate individually in some ways – repayments of current loans, for example — but applications now can be done through a single portal.

“Our organizations have always worked together to provide the best lending solutions for our borrowers and will continue to do so,” said Pat MacKrell, Pursuit’s president and CEO. “This rebrand allows us to go to market together, enhancing our ability to provide the most advantageous loan option to our clients while simplifying our process.”

The trio of lenders has 15 loan products available to businesses in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Pursuit’s new website,, simplifies the process of identifying and applying for loan products, including U.S. Small Business Administration loans and fast online loans.

The lenders now known as Pursuit have had a major influence in the Rochester area. A total of $6.1 million was loaned to businesses here in the year ending September 2019, and some $18.2 million was loaned to Rochester-area businesses in the last five years.

Such companies as Royal Car Wash, Vertex Optics, Avani Technology Solutions and Optimax Systems have obtained financing through the affiliates, according to Pursuit.

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Lasers in Rochester may fuel the world, reach for the universe

It’s hard to imagine that when lasers were first invented there was a bit of a “so what?” reaction.

In 1960, light was the main application people could envision from lasers and the question was why did we need a new source of light?

But today, laser research in Rochester is helping to determine where in the universe there might be life.

Michael Campbell, director of the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, explains that much of the research done at the lab focuses on what happens to matter under extreme conditions.

“Most of the universe is in extreme conditions,” he said.  By firing the laser at molecules in an attempt to create fusion in a lab setting, scientists begin to understand more about what’s happening to molecules elsewhere in the universe. And depending on which molecules and how they interact, they could be the ones to support life.

All this comes from the ongoing main mission at LLE, which is to harness fusion to create a clean source of energy. Scientists including Campbell are reluctant to make predictions about when fusion will finally be reached in a controllable way to produce commercial energy. They don’t want to fall into the trap that “cold fusion,” a different technology, fell into when it failed to materialize as promised.

Nevertheless, Campbell predicted fusion will be reached in about a decade.

“We will demonstrate that we can light the fire,” Campbell said, which is just the beginning.

Ignition at LLE will be a breakthrough on the order of human flight – the one the Wright brothers succeeded in at Kitty Hawk in 1903, Campbell said.  It took another dozen years or so for some militaries in Europe to adopt flight for use in World War I. Then another 20 years passed before planes were used more extensively to fight in World War II.  Finally, another 15 years went by before commercial travel by air became routine.

“Fusion is really hard, but in the end, it will power the planet,” Campbell said. “The energy crisis goes away.” And it will power the planet as long as people exist, he added. His confidence is rooted in the fact that fusion is nature’s way of making energy, he said, (i.e., the sun). But it’s hard for us to replicate nature. “Nothing that impactful is easy.”

About 60 percent of research at LLE is actually done by visiting scientists who bring their laser experiments to Rochester. They hail from the federal government, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and other centers for scientific advancement. What they discover sometimes is a byproduct of what they were looking for.

“We do science, but in the process of doing science, we find technology,” Campbell said.  For instance, developing smaller and smaller wavelengths for lasers has been useful in making smaller and smaller computer circuitry. As smaller integrated computer circuits became available, the capacity of the computers increased, while their size decreased. The fastest computers in 1985, Campbell noted, had a fraction of the capacity contained in the smartphones many of us carry in our pockets.

“You start out doing science, but people find ways to use things that you’d never imagine,” he said.

LLE, with an annual budget of $80 million, employs 350 people and keeps 140 graduate students busy too. About one third of those graduate students go on to jobs in the industry, another third end up working at laser research centers such as the national laboratories, and one third go into academia, Campbell said.

Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize for Physics for work she did as a graduate student at the University of Rochester. (Photo by Peter Lee, Waterloo Region Record)
Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize for Physics for work she did as a graduate student at the University of Rochester. (Photo by Peter Lee, Waterloo Region Record)

One of those students was Donna Strickland, who is now a professor at the University at Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. As a graduate student at UR in the late 1980s, Strickland and her adviser, Gérard Mourou, were using the same laser technology that’s been used to operate on nearsighted eyes and create super-strong Gorilla glass. They developed a way to amplify the strength of laser impulses in a way that allowed the development of table-top lasers. Strickland and Mourou shared in a Nobel Prize in Physics a few months ago based on this work that she featured in her graduate thesis.

“The Nobel gives us a reputation for quality,” Campbell said. More work at LLE, attracted by the attention to its former student and former professor winning the prize, will mean more work generally in Rochester. Several local companies, including Sydor Technologies and Optimax Systems Inc., may benefit as a result.

Sydor manufactures products that are necessary for firing and assessing the laser at the lab and has gone on to make such products for places like the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and similar facilities in the United Kingdom and France.

“We transfer technology from the LLE and commercialize it into products that can be sold to customers around the world,” said Michael Pavia, president and CEO at Sydor.

Not all laser research in Rochester happens at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Last week, a joint project of scientists at UR and Rochester Institute of Technology won attention from the publication Physics World.  They’re working on a phonon laser, which amplifies sound instead of light and have developed a technique to increase and focus oscillation of suspended nanoparticles.

According to lead scientist Nick Vamivakas at UR, the work could advance precision measuring, which is key in the use and manufacture of optics. By the way, Vamivakas’ team is building on the work of American physicist Arthur Ashkin, who was the third person to share the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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