Guest blog post by John Fernandez , U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
I was pleased to join U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey today at the beautiful State University of New York Orange (SUNY Orange) campus in Newburgh, New York to celebrate the award of $1.95 million in federal Jobs & Innovation Accelerator Challenge  funding to catalyze the growth of the Hudson Valley region’s alternative energy cluster.
The federal investments will help to establish the New York Renewable Energy Cluster (NYREC) by allowing The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC) to expand its industry-led clean energy manufacturing cluster into Orange County through a partnership with Orange County Community College and Gateway to Entrepreneurial Tomorrows (GET).
The Jobs & Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) is just one example of how the Obama administration is collaborating to ensure a smarter use of existing federal resources to foster regional innovation in support of sustainable economic prosperity.
Supporting bottom-up regional strategies through inter-agency collaboration is not only smart government, but the type of support regional economies need to grow and prosper. It’s not about new programs, it’s about better programs. It’s not about new money, but smart money.Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is making critical investments like this to cement our global competitiveness and create new American jobs. We are leading a more robust and coordinated effort because the president knows that we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other nations capitalize on the high-growth clean energy sector.
The JIAC package for the New York project that we celebrated today includes an $800,000 investment by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to establish cluster development mechanisms intended to become permanent features of NYREC's long-term development strategy. Activities will focus on business support services to start-ups, including market research, site analysis, and access to capital.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is investing $1 million to SUNY Orange to increase course offerings at participating schools and tailor them more precisely to renewable energy cluster needs, thereby enhancing their value as job-generating training. These courses will continue to be offered and expanded through tuition payments and Department of Labor funding.
And, the Small Business Administration is investing $150,000 to Gateway to Entrepreneurial Tomorrows to specifically target underserved and disadvantaged residents in Newburgh and provide mentoring, business plan development, export-readiness, technology commercialization, international and domestic marketing, accounting and legal business structures, internet commerce and employee management services. Client referrals will be made to renewable energy industry experts who can vet business ideas for feasibility. Clients at appropriate stages of business development will be connected with venture capital groups and alternative financing entities, and receive assistance with applications for state and federal R&D funding including federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR).
This strong regional cluster is being grown from dynamic public-private partnership that bring together business leaders, universities, non-profits, government officials and other strategic partners to help the region capitalize on shared strengths to enhance the local economy, create jobs, and compete globally.