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Business park gets plaudits

Rochester Business Journal
May 2, 2014

The official opening this week of a $23 million battery and energy storage technology center at Eastman Business Park and the start of construction this fall on a $25 million biomaterials manufacturing center are among the latest transformations at the 1,200-acre site.

The New York representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration got his first look at the business park last Friday and said he thinks it is a prime candidate for future investment.

“I’ve seen a lot of industrial complexes in the U.S. that are old and with a lot of space that really have no future,” said Andrew Reid after touring the park with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Perinton.

“I think Rochester and this is exactly the opposite. There is great infrastructure, great opportunity and a great nucleus of things kind of coming together. You can see success happening. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

Slaughter wanted Reid to see the site of the $25 million Eastman Advanced Manufacturing Center for Biomaterials. A groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall, with the 60,000-square-foot facility up and running in 2016.

In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged $3 million in state funding for the bioscience manufacturing center, which is to be built on the park’s east side.

“We’re working through the logistics of how that money will actually flow to the project,” said Michael Alt, park director. “We’re lining up other private investment money. We expect private investors and debt to make up the balance of that.”

The facility is designed to improve equipment that converts non-food plant materials into biofuels and chemicals.

The bioscience manufacturing center will serve as the anchor for related businesses at the park by creating an ecosystem of interconnected independent companies, Alt said.

One company’s leftovers will become feed for another, he said.

“From an economic standpoint, that gives them value, versus having to pay to put it in a landfill or to have it taken off-site for incineration or some other processing,” he said. “They now have an economic benefit.

“From a sustainability standpoint, which is really the best part of this, you’re making good use of that carbon. It’s not going into the air as carbon dioxide, contributing to greenhouse gases or, worse, it goes into a landfill, where it decomposes into methane. Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”

Biomaterials manufacturing and energy storage are among four sectors of focus at the park. The third is functional films, or the ability to coat a solar cell or put touch-screen capabilities on a substrate, Alt said. Photonics is the fourth.

Natcore Technology Inc.’s research and development laboratory is in Building 308. The New Jersey company is the exclusive licensee of thin-film technology that puts silicon oxides on silicon wafers through its patented liquid phase deposition process developed at Rice University in Houston.

It also owns patents for its low-cost, light-absorbing black silicon solar cells, which it says capture 99.7 percent of the visible light that reaches the cells, and for its low-cost selective emitter.

The inventory at the business park now includes the New York State Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, which celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. NY-BEST, a non-profit corporation, was formed in 2010 with a goal of becoming a global leader in energy storage technology. It lists more than 130 companies as members.

“They will be able to test and accredit batteries from the size that are in video recorders and cellphones all the way up to very large ones that will go onto the grid,” Alt said. “And they will connect to the Eastman Business Park electricity grid, which is a great advantage for them.”

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council was awarded $3.5 million in state funding in 2011 for the energy storage facility.

DNV Kema Energy & Sustainability, a Dutch energy consulting firm with U.S. headquarters in Massachusetts, operates the center and plans to move its Pennsylvania lab to Building 308.

The business park contains 53 business entities, including NY-BEST.

“I’m impressed with the scale of the park, both the size and the history of the operations,” the Economic Development Administration’s Reid said. “It has a very impressive level of infrastructure built into it, where everything is so self-contained.

“It looks like there’s a fantastic opportunity for both existing and new businesses and technologies to leverage off of each other within that nicely defined ecosystem.”

The EDA has contributed $5 million to Rochester-area projects in the last five years, officials said.

“Kodak still has such a great influence on this community and its future,” Slaughter said. “The people who planned this business park—actually Kodak Park—were so far-seeing that I’d venture to say there’s no incubator like this in the world.

“Not only do we have all these facilities; we have access to these great brains that made Eastman Kodak the company it was, the best in the world. Our future is here. The future of Western New York is probably right in this area. I marvel all the time at the far-seeing ability of the founders to really understand what we’d be needing in the 21st century.”

The park’s functional films component was spawned from Kodak’s core technology, Alt said.

Texas-based UniPixel Inc. and Kingsbury Corp. are partnering with Kodak to produce films for touch-screen sensors. UniPixel has taken space at the park, and Kingsbury has its headquarters on Lexington Avenue.

“Both are utilizing different technologies to manufacture the next generation of touch-panel sensors,” Alt said.

The park was at the top of the Finger Lakes development council’s 2013 priority list for funding.

The council describes it as a “city within a city,” with more than 100 buildings containing 16 million square feet of laboratory, manufacturing, warehouse and office space. The park generates its own power, processes its own water and has its own wastewater treatment facilities.

The park has 30 miles of road and 17 miles of railroad, the council states in its pitch to state economic development leaders.

The park is home to 6,400 employees, Alt said. Its leaders want to add 1,800 jobs in five years and initiate investments of $1.5 billion from public and private sources.

“We are making great progress here,” Alt said. “We are creating jobs. We are on target to hit our growth targets that we committed to as part of the Finger Lakes council. And these are good manufacturing and research and development jobs, the types that we want to grow.”

“We are trying to deliver on being the economic driver that everybody believes this wonderful facility can be.”

Slaughter is counting on Reid and the EDA to be one of several federal sources of funding for the park. Reid was non-committal when asked if Slaughter’s sales pitch last week convinced him.

“That remains to be seen,” Slaughter interjected, “but we can work on him when we get him back to Washington.”

5/2/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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