Rochester, N.Y. - More than three years after Rochester was named the hub for national photonics research, the AIM Photonics facility at Eastman Business Park will welcome its first customer in December.
When the hub was first announced in 2015, some politicians said it would create thousands of jobs. But on Monday, photonics leaders said jobs may come, but it's going to take time, and they're now working with a handful of potential companies ranging from startups to large and established ones. The AIM Photonics board members met on Monday with an update.
“It’s something that we should be proud of," said Robert Duffy, the president of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great shot in the arm for us. I would not let one person’s predictions for jobs take away from where this project is going and is going in the future.”
The Test, Assembly and Packing, or TAP, Facility is nearing completion at the Lake Avenue building. It's a hub where companies would use light, laser and fiberglass to turn wafer chips into an electronic that is fitted for a product.
“There is definitely enough interest on this to the point where we’re struggling to actually keep up with the demand at this stage." said AIM Photonics CEO Michael Liehr.
But that interest doesn't translate into an actual workforce.
“Hopefully, these processes that get developed here, that allow them to turn into great products, that employment will be here in Rochester but they will be employees of those companies that work with us," said Edward White, Associate Vice President of the TAP facility. "What we want to do, ultimately, is to get those companies to move to Rochester."
“Imagine if the early stages of Thomas Edison’s research that ultimately led to industries that couldn’t have been imagined at the early stages," said AIM Photonics board chair John Maggiore. "But he didn’t set out to do his research in order to produce x number of jobs.”
The 30,000-square-foot facility on Lake Avenue consists of office space, conference rooms, an optical lab and three clean rooms for developing the chips. There's also $30 million in equipment brought in the side of the building by cranes. There's also reserved room for a national business to bring and use its own tools.
“Is it opportunistic that we found this company?" White said. "Absolutely, and they found us. It will work for our business if we can attract them in, and we’re working hard at doing that now.”
In December, photonics leaders say a California-based company plans to use the facility for its fiber attach capabilities.
A website is now active and aims to attract companies. It includes incentives with an exchange of job commitment.
$250 million in state money has been earmarked for the project, along with $110 million in federal funds.