Citing the need for jobs of the future, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced $22.5 million in state support for the creation of a Rochester Data Science Consortium on the University of Rochester campus.
The consortium would create up to 184 new jobs and is expected to leverage more than $285 million in federal research funds and private investment.
Before a standing-room-only crowd of local government and business leaders, Cuomo made the announcement Thursday at the Wegmans Conference Center in Gates.
Harris Corp. will be the consortium's first partner. The project also includes the construction of a 60,000-square-foot building that will house the new consortium, which will be part of the University of Rochester's Goergen Institute for Data Science. The consortium brings together two of the largest employers in the Rochester region, University of Rochester and Harris Corp., a manufacturer of military technology.
"Data science is the new tech frontier, and with this consortium, we are further strengthening the Finger Lakes' role as a leading hub for optics, imaging research and commercialization to create high-paying jobs and support the local economy," Cuomo said.
New York is investing $15 million for the new home of the Goergen Institute for Data Science at Wegmans Hall, with $12.5 million through a new Upstate Revitalization Initiative Grant and $2.5 million for the project previously awarded through multiple Regional Council capital grants. The state is also investing $7.5 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding to operate the consortium for three years.
In 2014, The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation donated $10 million to help establish the Goergen Institute for Data Science. On Thursday, the organization announced another $10 million commitment to the project. The Goergen Institute is inside the new Wegmans Hall, which will also be home to the New York State Center of Excellence in Data Science.
The Rochester Data Science Consortium will build off Harris and UR's shared strengths in optics, imaging and photonics, Cuomo said, noting that the Rochester Finger Lakes region is a leader in those industries.
The Rochester Data Science Consortium brings together the community's key stakeholders within the data science ecosystem to help propel both private industry and public service sectors, said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
Monroe County Legislator Vince Felder, D-Rochester, represents some of the city's poorest neighborhoods in a district that stretches from North Goodman Street to St. Paul to Avenue D. He is hoping that the proposed consortium will provide jobs for many.
In his district, the key is to encourage people to get at least a high school education to be able to do technical work as the economy shifts from service and manufacturing to technology, said Felder, 51, whose father was a sharecropper with a third-grade education.
Other community leaders in attendance included Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, state Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece; County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, D-Rochester; and Irondequoit Town Supervisor David Seeley.
Noticeably absent from the news conference was University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. The university is currently facing criticism over its handling of alleged sexual harassment charges against a professor.
Cuomo told the crowd that the consortium would strengthen the upstate region as a center for optics and data and that the region is known as a center for STEM activity due to its many institutions of higher education.