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VIEWPOINT: Public-Private Partnerships Needed to Reboot Tech Valley

By Kevin M. Owens


Today, we in New York state find ourselves at a pivotal moment. In the latest push to transform New York’s Tech Valley into a booming technology and semiconductor hub, a New York–based consortium was recently one of the first awardees of the federal CHIPS & Science Act. 

To make the most of this funding, community leaders must recognize the opportunity it grants us to transform the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley into a booming innovation hub — and work together to realize the region’s full potential.

There has never been a better time to invest in our region’s future and enrich our economy and community — but this collaboration requires proactive partnerships between academic, business, and other public and private leaders to address current difficulties our city must overcome to thrive. 

Leading the New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC), I’ve made it my mission to invest in workforce development around disruptive technologies that give back to New York state. I’ve also seen how for investment in the community to truly pay off, businesses, higher education and public-private partnerships must all play a role. 

There are concrete steps that we can take to ensure this network of Capital Region and Mohawk Valley stakeholders works together. For one, we need to capture the talent universities bring to this region and invest in initiatives encouraging them to stay and build their lives and careers after graduation. In the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, students have the unique opportunity to learn in a place where their work in semiconductor manufacturing and technology can be directly applied. Still, we must do more to help them realize this potential and develop deep and lasting connections to our state.

For example, local higher-education institutions should partner with local businesses and startups to understand what leaders are looking for in the next generation of workers and take steps to prepare students with these skills. They can also work together to involve high-potential students in internships and fellowship programs that lead to fruitful careers in the region after graduation. While pursuing their education, academic institutions can help students get involved with incubator and accelerator programs within the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley that provide mentorship and support to facilitate growth. This hands-on experience is crucial for aspiring students, but it also connects them to the region and may encourage them to put down roots after attaining their degree. 

But for these higher education initiatives to succeed, business leaders must also open the door to mentoring students. We can invest in mentorship programs that teach students how to develop businesses, build programs, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that will help our region thrive. For instance, at NYSTEC, we’ve taken on more robust internship programs and prioritized local candidates for these roles. As a result, we’ve forged greater connections with the colleges and businesses in the region and built lasting relationships with individual students that often lead to offer letters.

These types of community-focused mentorship opportunities also help make tech more accessible to segments of our community that may not have had these opportunities otherwise. Initiatives like STEM programs at Redemption Christian Academy in the Capital Region have already demonstrated what successful cross-industry partnerships can do. As we combine our efforts to revitalize Tech Valley, we must consider programs like these an essential piece of the puzzle. If we want our region to thrive in the future, we must get technology into everyone’s hands early on and make sure they know how to use it for their benefit. 

To bring this revitalization to fruition, we must start taking steps today. Building out pipelines that start even before college and last throughout one’s professional career takes time. Businesses, higher education, and other regional public-private partnerships need to realize that we’re playing the long game — but that it will be worthwhile. Together, we need to focus on sustained growth investment that acts in the immediate term but thinks in the months and years ahead. Investing for the future means thinking today about what we want the region to look like in one, five, and even 10 years from now. Then, we must reach across industries to answer the million-dollar question: How do we get there?

The stars are aligning in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, but it won’t stay that way forever. With shared resources and passion, we will make the most of recent federal opportunities, and in so doing, improve connectivity and engagement across every sector of our community. Let’s not let this opportunity to reboot Tech Valley pass us by.             

Kevin M. Owens serves as president and CEO of New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC) a nonprofit consulting firm headquartered in Rome with offices in Albany, Troy, and New York City.