Clean-Tech Innovation Spurs WNY Industry

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Retool'22 Panelists from the "Workforce Programs: Training for Climate Tech" Panel, including: Moderator Dan Heitzenrater, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce CEO; Holger Ekanger, VP, Workforce Development at JCC; Craig Clark, VP, Economic Development & Interim VP, Academic Affairs, Alfred State; William Smock, Principal, E2CC BOCES P-TECH Program, and Stephen Tucker, President/CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, Buffalo.
Contributing Writer

Walter W. Pickut

Last week’s Climate Tech Conference for Manufacturers, aptly dubbed Retool ‘22, held at Jamestown’s Northwest Arena, delivered more than a promise of new growth for industry and manufacturing in Western New York and the Southern Tier.

The future has arrived with a vast new array of profit and employment opportunities.

Follow the Money Home!

Retool ‘22 was presented last week by Retool WNY. The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities (BPU) hosted this program in Jamestown based on a $750,000 award by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for its “Manufacturing Clean Energy in the Southern Tier” proposal.

“We are very pleased that New York State leadership recognizes that significant investment in climate technology manufacturing will benefit existing Jamestown-area companies as well as help attract new companies to the region,” says BPU General Manager David Leathers.

This BPU-led program will facilitate innovation that focuses on climate technology company formation, enhancing regional workforce development, creating jobs in this growing sector, and strengthening connections among manufacturers across the Western Southern Tier counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany.

Important new, well-funded initiatives are now spurring growth of new clean technologies. Local businesses have been invited to ride the wave of this new industrial reality, according to Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch NY, a nonprofit venture development organization providing pro bono mentoring and access to risk capital for high-growth startups.

The Big Shift

The entire world is now weaning itself from fossil fuels at a rapidly increasing pace, converting commerce and industry to electrical power from renewable, non-air-and-water-polluting sources. Retool ‘22 laid out a practical and profitable roadmap for both existing industries and innovative new startups to not only survive, but to evolve and thrive in the region’s, nation’s, and the world’s coming new Cleantech Economy.

Tuesday’s Retool ’22 Keynote Speaker, Clint Wilder, co-author of Clean Tech Nation and editorial director of “Clean Edge,” presented an inviting, broad spectrum of climate change realities and exciting new opportunities in the climate tech industry. Funding and investment opportunities and financial grant sources were presented and described in detail for innovators and manufacturers in attendance.

Showing that this new economy is not merely a promise of future growth, but a very present and profitable reality, many examples and spokespersons were presented representing current climate tech successes throughout Western New York and across the state’s Southern Tier.

From left to right: Dan Testa, panel moderator for “Financial Resources, Public & Private Funding for Innovation & Manufacturing”; John Williams, Exec. VP Policy & Reg. Aff. NYSERDA; Marnier LaVigne, president/CEO Launch NY.

Join the Future

John Ellis, Wednesday’s Keynote Speaker, a renowned futurist, dramatically focused on the newest opportunities and advancements in supply chain manufacturing and in the transportation industry.

These new technologies are changing the way cities, airports, and transportation authorities are managing public spaces. As a former executive at Motorola and as Global Technologist at Ford Motor Company, Ellis has led or taken part in dynamic teams that built many of the innovations currently changing the world.

The local economy is now poised to rebuilt it manufacturing infrastructure to include not only finished, market-ready products for the new clean tech economy, but supply chain productivity for segments and components that will feed these new industries.

Grant Goals

The New York State Energy Research Development Authority which provided the three-year grant to the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities in December 2020 listed four major economic development initiatives:

Completion of a regional manufacturing opportunity and challenge assessment in November 2021 by Insyte Consulting.

Up to 10 individual grants awarded to help study and develop new, local product and supply chain lines in cleantech.

Develop linkages between entrepreneurs and manufacturers who can help business owners, educators, and others “carve a path into this new economic opportunity.”

An advance building controls workforce development program at Jamestown community college is partially funded through a NYSERDA grant, slated to kick off in spring 2023.

Ready and Able

“Retool ‘22 is only the beginning,” according to Jamestown BPU Business Development Coordinator Ellen Ditonto. “The future is here, and we are ready to lead it forward.”

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.