The Albany-based organization tasked with helping small- to mid-sized New York state manufacturers expand has two new tools to do its job.
It was designated a statewide Manufacturing Extension Partnership center and given $2.4 million in annual funding to help accomplish its mission. There are 10 other MEPs in New York state, but they are all regional; FuzeHub is the only one with a statewide footprint.
Executive Director Elena Garuc said FuzeHub’s mission is to use a unique mix of technology, resources, human expertise and special events to assist manufacturers. Given their smaller size, she said, these companies working alone might have difficulty accessing the resources they need to grow.
FuzeHub’s job, essentially, is to help identify what these companies need and then help them get it.
The independent not-for-profit was formed in 2013 and is based in downtown Albany. It has eight full- and part-time employees that include engineering/technology consultants, marketing/business engagement specialists and solution specialists. Two employees are dedicated to improving the manufacturing climate in New York state, part of the mission given to it by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation.
FuzeHub has just hired two more employees who will start next week.
Garuc said FuzeHub has a huge pool of companies it can potentially help — a financial industry estimate shows there are about 17,000 small- and mid-sized manufacturers in New York state, and she thinks even that number is low.
“I don’t think that takes into account the up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” she said. “It’s much larger than that.”
FuzeHub has a more behind-the-scenes role than a lot of economic development agencies. Rather than broker deals bringing big new employers to the state, it works for steady improvements for smaller individual companies and, collectively, a stronger manufacturing sector.
One Capital Region beneficiary of its work has been ThermoAura, a Colonie manufacturer of thermoelectric materials. When it faced challenges understanding environmental regulations, permitting and workflow validation, FuzeHub provided solutions or connected the company with experts who could provide solutions. It also helped ThermoAura design and purchase manufacturing equipment.
“They’ve reported cost savings to us,” Garuc said.
FuzeHub will use some of its $2.4 million in new funding for the Manufacturing Innovation Fund it will launch later this year. That program will provide grants of $25,000 to $75,000; an interested company will partner with a nonprofit or a college that will be the actual recipient of the money, and use it to assist the company.
“It allows us to provide more access to these solutions,” Garuc said.
She gave as a local example Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. RPI has an automation lab that could provide assistance to any number of small or startup companies seeking to automate their manufacturing processes. They would partner with RPI, and a FuzeHub grant would help cover the cost of the work RPI performs for the company.
FuzeHub is spreading its reach and spreading the word about itself in an attempt to reach more companies that could use a little help.
“I know the opportunities are there,” Garuc said.