Expanding New York’s High-Tech Jobs Base Is Key To Our Building –And Leading – The “Innovation Economy”

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
May 18, 2012

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

The preceding quote from the late Steve Jobs – the trailblazing leader of Apple who envisioned cutting-edge products such as the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad – captures the essence of why building an “innovation economy” is critically important to New York’s future. If we succeed in constructing this innovation economy, New York will reclaim its rightful place as an economic leader on not only the national level, but also a global scale.


The pace of technological innovation has been breathtaking and accelerating each year. Think of the scope and scale of technological advancement in the past 20 years alone: the rise of the Internet and Google, smaller, faster, more powerful computer chips and microprocessors, the proliferation of smartphones, Wi-Fi, Cloud storage, social media, handheld GPS and countless other breakthroughs. Last week’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Facebook, and its $104 billion valuation by Wall Street, served notice to all that the innovation economy is very real.


Over the past two weeks, I have outlined steps necessary to build New York’s innovation economy. Step one emphasized education and vocational skills development so New York continues to have the high-skilled, well-educated workforce the jobs of tomorrow will demand. Step two, focused on strengthening the spirit of entrepreneurship and free enterprise, along with breaking down government and regulatory barriers. The third step – and the focus of this week’s column – is supporting New York’s emerging high tech, nanotech and biotech industries so we can grow more well-paying jobs and lead the innovation economy.


Based on more than two decades of building and leading private sector manufacturing companies, I believe that New York can develop an innovation economy that is the envy of the world. Here in the Empire State, we will build it bigger, build it better and build it smarter than India, China or Brazil. We can establish an innovation economy that creates more jobs, opportunities and prosperity for all New Yorkers. Folks, this is no pie-in-the-sky pipe dream – the innovation economy is already underway!


New York is emerging as one of the premier destinations for cutting-edge industries, research facilities and high-tech (microelectronics), nanotech (the study of manipulating matter on an atomic or molecular scale) and biotech (using bioprocesses in engineering, technology, and medicine) incubators. In fact, the TechAmerica Foundation’s 14th annual Cyberstates report listed New York as third in the nation in 2010 for high-tech employment, behind only California and Texas. Here are further statistics regarding the tech sector’s role in New York’s economic future, courtesy of the Empire State Development Corporation and Public Policy Institute (PPI):

  • IBM, Intel, Samsung, Global Foundries and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company pledged to invest $4 billion in computer chip research in New York, with the combined private-public sector investment expected to create 2,500 high-technology jobs, 1,900 construction jobs and maintain 2,500 jobs;
  • New York’s bioscience industry supports 250,000 jobs, generating $309 million in personal State Income Tax and over $5.63 billion in wages; and
  • Two of the world’s most advanced semiconductor fabs are located right here in New York: IBM’s $2.5 billion facility in East Fishkill, and Global Foundries’ $4.2 billion facility in Malta.


Based on the above-referenced figures, some may think that New York’s innovation economy will simply continue along an upward trajectory. That is a false assumption and could derail New York’s innovation economy locomotive. For New York to keep moving forward with its innovation economy, we should enact recommendations of a recent PPI report “Cultivating the Next Generation of Discoveries and Development in New York Bioscience” available online at www.ppinys.org/reports/2012/Cultivating-the-Next-Generation.pdf. A summary of the Institute’s policy recommendations include the following:

  • Establish a Governor’s Council to focus the state’s biopharma vision, increase communication between the state and industry and develop a proactive marketing campaign that champions New York’s bioscience industry and the benefits of doing business in the Empire State. This is needed since some biopharmaceutical executives have indicated they receive “mixed messages” from state government;
  • Designate financial resources specifically for bioscience companies. In particular, establish a matching grant program for bioscience companies awarded Small Business Innovation Research grants, and enact a bill to create a dedicated Biosciences Commercialization Assistance Fund; and
  • Increase the amount of affordable incubator and lab space for startups and early-stage companies.

Along with these recommendations, I suggest the following public policy steps:

  • Expand high-tech investment state tax credits to make New York more financially attractive as the place to start or expand a high-tech, nanotech, or biotech-based business or R&D facility;
  • Keep investing in our high-tech incubators and Centers of Excellence, strengthen public-private partnerships between SUNY and high-tech businesses; and
  • Support the “National Science and Math Initiative” focused on improving math and science education for America’s children. This is especially important since the “Program for International Students Assessment” ranked U.S. students 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We must improve our ranking because math and science education are at the heart of the innovation economy.

From the assembly line of Henry Ford, to the personal computing revolution of Steve Jobs, innovation is at the heart of every great American industry, invention and entrepreneurial endeavor. When we build New York’s innovation economy, we are doing more than focusing on next year – we are preparing for the next 50 years, making an investment in a future of more jobs, higher incomes and a better quality of life for everyone. I hope you have enjoyed this series and will join me in supporting policies to ensure our Empire State remains an innovation leader.

NEXT WEEK: Why right now is the perfect time to start a business!

As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.