Industries of the Future Arrive in Jamestown

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Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut

The future is coming, and it’s labeled: Built in Western New York.

Jamestown—a city deeply grounded in manufacturing—will be Ground Zero for this new industrial boom beginning with Retool ’22 – A Climate Tech Conference for Manufacturers slated for October 17 through 19, 2022 at Jamestown’s Northwest Arena. This opportunity is being brought to Jamestown by Retool WNY, under the banner, “Build it clean. Build it here.”

Last year alone, this new kind of industry attracted $40 billion of venture investment across the United States, and 2022 is on track to match that tally and more, according to economic forecasters.

The local economy is now gearing up to take advantage of high-stakes opportunities emerging in the climate technology sector. Climate tech is projected to create a vast spectrum of new opportunities for employment and manufacturing growth across the nation, and Retool ’22 will bring this home to Western New York.

The lineup of exciting and innovative speakers coming to Jamestown to share their experiences and success stories in Climate Tech can be found above.

BPU Business Development Coordinator Ellen Ditonto and Senior Electrical Engineer Kristofor Sellstrom planning the Retool’22 conference.

New Industry—New Jobs

Gasoline and diesel-power revolutionized the twentieth century. In the same way, electrification is poised to radically reshape the twenty-first century.

Companies that build parts for internal combustion engines today will soon have to transform themselves to build parts for electric vehicles of all kinds, according to Ellen Ditonto, Business Development Coordinator for the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. The BPU hosts the Retool ’22 regional conference to help kick off this new wave of industrialization.

Just as steering wheels once replaced buggy-whips, electricity is poised to transform the world again—this time by making gasoline and diesel fuel-burning engines obsolete. Climate tech and clean tech promise to raise the standard of living while lowering the environmental impact of industry.

You Drive It!

This conference will showcase opportunities for the general public to experience the new electric age for themselves and to meet industrialists already successfully transforming regional industries.

As a special feature on day three, Wednesday October 19th, Retool ’22 will display its Electric Vehicle Showcase demonstrating commercial and consumer-level EVs, and members of the general public will be offered opportunities to actually test drive the vehicles themselves.

“We will also have a new, fully electric bus approved by the NFTA on-site,” Ditonto said, “parts of which were built by New Flyer a local, Western New York and Jamestown manufacturing facility already profiting from this new wave of manufacturing in the electrification sector.”

Higher Standards

Aggressive targets to decarbonize the economy have been set by New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019. This act is driving the need to create significant changes in industry and is creating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for manufacturers, their supporting networks, and their supply chains.

The Retool WNY initiative brings together speakers and colleagues with experience-gained insights and expertise in the climate technology industry.

The new standards for this new work are high, too high for solitary cities or companies alone. The Retool ’22 initiative is an advance shared by a broadly networked coalition spanning a region that starts in Binghamton and moves west to cover the rest of Western New York State as well as northward to Buffalo, Rochester and Ithaca, Ditonto explained.

Complex products like electric motors or entire vehicles require a wide-ranging supply chain of high-quality parts to meet the exacting standards of this new, advanced electric technology. This not only allows for, but necessitates, many component suppliers. Such supply chain dynamics typically foster new startups and smaller industries that can scale up as demand grows.

Networking Local Industries

A 27-county private, non-profit venture firm called Launch NY seeks startups and entrepreneurs to invests in. They help create high-growth, high-impact companies, supporting and guiding them through the transition to electrification and decarbonization of the environment.

Empire State Development also promotes business investment through loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing, and other forms of assistance.

“Our focus is to try to get manufacturers to understand that we need to change and to facilitate that,” Ditonto added. “There needs to be a movement into the climate tech and clean tech areas. And we have innovators who can do that right here.”

Success Stories

“We will look at the many success stories in this field,” Ditonto said. “Consider Buffalo-based SparkCharge, for example, building and expanding the world’s first and only portable electric vehicle charging network. They received money from the 43 North Competition in Buffalo.” 43 North is an accelerator that invests $5M annually to attract high-growth startups to Buffalo.

“Western New York and the southern tier are now recognized nationally as an area of great innovation in clean-tech and climate-tech,” Ditonto added. “Significant movements are now underway to “re-shore” industries that in the past moved offshore, returning them to the United States.”

A New Workforce

Older industries retooled for new products, as well as new enterprises, will require a new workforce. STEM programs in local school systems as well as technology development programs in colleges and universities throughout the Western New York region are becoming highly successful and well developed to retrain the existing workforce and to train new workers soon to enter the workforce.

“P-tech” programs (public-education technology training dove-tailed with the STEM curriculum) in our area have been phenomenal in training students who don’t necessarily want to get a college degree,” Ditonto explained. “All of this innovation demands a large, highly-trained or re-trained workforce—new jobs that will create new and thriving economies across the state.”

That is the promise of Retool ’22, now with growing support by representatives of secondary and higher educational institutions preparing today’s and tomorrow’s workers for these new careers.

The workforce development group at Jamestown Community College, for example, is among the strategic developers of Retool 22. They will operate with funds under a grant awarded to develop an advanced building controls program in their workforce area. “Their goal is to adapt buildings to emit less greenhouse gas in the way we heat and cool our buildings, both commercial and residential,” Ditonto said.

Critical Supply Chains

The term “Supply Chain” became part of everyday English during the pandemic, as shortages cropped up unexpectedly and sometimes disastrously.

As a result of this new awareness, according to Ditonto, “The goal of Retool ’22 is to retool and enhance the ability of our local industries to become part of the supply chain for these new, developing technologies, and for the survival of existing businesses—if they plan to stay in business.”

Caption: Kristofor Sellstrom, Senior Electrical Engineer at Jamestown BPU with an old “Rust Belt” transformer symbolizing the world being replaced.

Long Road Ahead

“Electrification will bring more manufacturing and more good jobs to Western New York, over time, though probably not overnight,” Ditonto cautions. “Retooling, rebuilding, and creating a new manufacturing economy is a process, not a single event.”

“Retool ‘22 will be the kickoff. Manufacturers can get money now—but it will only be available for a limited time—so that manufacturers can begin to develop these necessary changes and be very successful over time,” Ditonto predicted. “The return on investment will be long-term, at least five to 10 years, but that’s how you build new, successful industries, from startup, to scale-up, to a successful, widely distributed enterprise.”

The Future is Now

“The BPU as a public utility has done a lot to try to make people aware of what’s available out there,” Ditonto wants Jamestown Gazette readers to know. “We are moving to wider electrification and the Climate Protection Act is bringing people together to understand what’s going to happen in New York. We are innovative and we are moving ahead of the changes, not behind them.”

The question Ditonto hears most often is, “How is this going to affect me?”

“I think we should be looking at the question, ‘how can we, as individuals, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are changing our planet,’” she answers. “Some of the big issues result from how we heat and cool our homes and businesses, and how we fuel our vehicles. I want people to realize that the future is now and we are ready.

The Invitation

Please visit Retool ’22 at the Northwest Arena, October 17 through 22 and experience the twenty-first century’s Electric Revolution. To register, go to: jamestownbpu.com and click on the Retool’22 link, or directly to the registration site: https://bit.ly/Retool22.

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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.