Saratoga County

$25M RPI computer proposed in economic plan

Members of the Capital Region Economic Council made their final pitch for $40 million in development

Members of the Capital Region Economic Council made their final pitch for $40 million in development money Tuesday, and afterward down played the importance of state aid — even though its loss would eliminate a $25 million supercomputer for RPI, the single largest piece of the proposal.

“When we put this program together it was not about funding. This region needed an economic development plan put together by the people of the region,” said Michael J. Castellana, council co-chairman and president and CEO of SEFCU.

The council is one of 10 regional units put together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reform the state’s economic development process through a competition for $200 million in grants and tax breaks. The four highest-ranked councils will receive $40 million packages and the other six will divide the remaining $40 million.

The process revolves around a local approach to development, with plans and goals cultivated over the last few months. Those plans are being presented this week to the Strategic Plan Review Committee, which will rank them.

Castellana said during their presentation that they had targeted 26 projects, including some that would not require funding, and in doing so had laid out a framework to set the region on a prosperous path.

“We were asked to do a long-term strategic plan, not a stimulus plan that creates a short-term boost,” he said after the meeting. “Absolutely it is about down the road.”

Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and council cochairwoman, said that the region would go forward with revitalizing infrastructure, expanding its technological sectors and continuing collaboration — if its plan is not ranked in the top four. She said the implementation of certain projects would just be “incremental” and that the $40 million state package would speed up the region’s transformations. If awarded the smaller prize, Jackson said, “It’s not like we’re going to stand still.”

RPI computer

A lack of funding would stop plans for a proposed supercomputer to be used at RPI. This project represented the largest part of the region’s funding request with a state buy-in of $25 million that would hopefully be accompanied by $125 million in private funds.

While being questioned by the Review Plan Committee, Jackson said there had recently been discussions for the new computer, but they had not planned on purchasing one because the college couldn’t afford it. If the council’s plan is not ranked in the top four, she said they could not buy it in “the short-term.”

RPI already has a supercomputer at its campus, which Jackson touted as a reason to invest in the next generation of supercomputers. “The supercomputer that’s already there serves 700 users on the order of 20 companies, which have actually seen gains in productivity because they are actually modeling manufacturing processes,” she said. “They don’t have that kind of capability. They couldn’t afford it.”

Jackson argued that the proposed peta-scale supercomputer — a petabyte is a quadrillion bytes — would be the first of its kind in New York and would serve as an anchor in the region, which she predicted could produce 6,000 jobs and serve upwards of 200 companies.

Castellana said this investment fits with their plan of making the region a destination that was in demand for people and employers. “This computing system would be a draw to people who aren’t here today. It will benefit people who are here today, but it will also draw people who are not here because they will have a one-of-a-kind platform that they can then use,” he said.

The last day of presentations is today and will include one from the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Council, which covers Schoharie, Fulton and Montgomery counties.

Categories: Business

Leave a Reply