By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

SUNY Broome’s campus is abuzz with excitement as we celebrate the collaborative achievement of being selected as a finalist in the “1 Billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge” awarded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).  Under the overarching title of “The Research Foundation for the State University of New York,” Binghamton University, SUNY Broome, and other area partners have joined forces to develop the New Energy, New York initiative, which will transform the Southern Tier of New York into a lithium-based battery development and manufacturing hub.

In the wake of the pandemic induced financial downturn, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) set out to reinvigorate regional economies through community led projects. Via American Rescue Plan funding, the EDA launched their most expansive revitalization initiative, the “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” which tasked local communities to create sources of innovation and workforce development for their region. 

A team from Binghamton University saw the EDA’s call to action and connected with community partners, including SUNY Broome, to submit an application.  

Over 500 communities from across the nation also submitted proposals that delineated their plans to revamp their respective regions’ economic development. 60 finalists were selected to split a $30 million planning grant that is to be used to further develop the proposal in order to be considered for “Phase 2.” If The Research Foundation for the State University of New York’s proposal is selected for “Phase 2”, additional funding ranging from $25 to $100 million will be granted to develop a lithium-based battery manufacturing center to fulfill battery demands domestically.

SUNY Broome is truly delighted by the finalist designation and is eager to implement our contributions to the collaborative effort. “We are so happy to be part of this exciting opportunity for our region. SUNY Broome will bring our expertise in developing educational pathways and workforce development to ensure that the proposed lithium-ion gigafactory will have a skilled and competent workforce to meet the clean energy needs of our nation,” shared Dr. Penny Kelly Ed.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs.

In preparation for “Phase 2,” SUNY Broome is working to determine the labor needs that will be required for such a massive manufacturing center. The EDA encourages that a portion of the $500,000.00 grant funding be allocated for consultations to assist in identifying underserved populations who could fill the workforce gaps in the pipeline for this growing cluster. Senator Chuck Schumer has been overwhelmingly supportive of this proposal and is particularly dedicated to assisting with the creation of hundreds of high-paying jobs for the Southern Tier region. 

While the aggressive timeline for deploying this New Energy, New York initiative may be daunting at times, the team at SUNY Broome is poised to be an active member of the coalition. 

Director of Workforce Development, Danielle Britton, is ready to connect the pieces. 

“We have developed some core, non-credit classes that align perfectly with the mechatronics and clean energy needs for this initiative. Ideally, we would like students to stack their non-credit classes, into a mechatronics certification, into a full degree, all while working in industry. We have the framework for curricula at the various levels and job classifications and are honored to be included in developing and delivering a clean energy educational system for the community,” said Britton.

The term mechatronics may be unfamiliar to some, but it is the key combination of interdisciplinary engineering sciences and skill sets that perfectly aligns with the manufacturing of batteries. SUNY Broome’s mechatronics certificate is a hands-on blend of  courses in manufacturing, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Students will develop the skills necessary to work with modern machinery/systems in a clean and efficient way. 

If you are interested in being part of the Southern Tier’s groundbreaking history as a  lithium-based battery manufacturing empcenter, consider joining SUNY Broome’s first Mechatronics certificate cohort. SUNY Broome is still accepting applications for the fall 2022 semester. The application is FREE and takes about ten minutes to complete. 

The Research Foundation for the State University of New York coalition has  submitted their followup proposal to be considered for Phase 2 of the EDA’s challenge and hopes to be notified in late summer of the final decision.

Learn more about the “1 Billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge”.