In a windowless room deeply embedded within a bunker-like compound, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and other state-level politicians announced a $15 million state-sponsored grant to upgrade the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, or CHESS.
CHESS is a highly sophisticated X-ray facility and “one of four facilities in the world that produces X-rays of this caliber,” said President Martha E. Pollack. Upon the completion of the upgrade, called CHESS-U, “CHESS will be the premier synchrotron source in the U.S. for high-energy, high-flux X-ray studies,” according to its website.
The CHESS-U upgrades “will create at least 100 new high-paying, high-technology jobs while retaining 150 jobs at the facility,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Hochul extolled Cornell for “always [being] the bright light for the state of New York,” and praised the upgrade for creating many new jobs in the area.
“I love the fact that there are so many businesses … that benefit from the brilliance that goes on in this building, but when it is time to leave, they take a concept, commercialize it, replicate it elsewhere and the best news is, they hire people,” Hochul said.
“As someone who recalls the days of 10 percent unemployment in the state and to see it down to 4 percent in this area, that’s exciting,” she added.
Indeed, there is much anticipation that the spillover effect of the innovation at CHESS will benefit the local economy.
“It’s the spinning of this knowledge and the research that is being done at our academic institutions, into commercialization [that] let businesses grow and foster and employ people,” said State Senator Thomas O’Mara. “That’s what it’s all about. Improving our upstate economy. This is going to help that in just magnificent ways.”
The $15 million grant is part of a larger $500 million grant given to the Southern Tier region of New York State as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Hochul claimed that projects like this funded by the initiative has “plugged the [brain] drain.”
“People are starting to recognize that this is the place to come to be educated, but also to stay and live,” Hochul said.
Pollack also noted that “among the immediate benefits that will flow from this award … [is] the expansion of a local advanced manufacturing business.”
“[CHESS] provides unique X-ray facilities for researchers across the United States, and in fact around the globe. … What this upgrade is doing, is allowing us to maintain that world leadership, but also to share that technology with local companies so that they develop the advanced manufacturing capabilities that they can then share out to the wider world,” said Prof. J. Ritchie Patterson, physics, director of CHESS.
The spillover effects to local businesses already seem to be significant, according to Alex Deyhim, president of Advanced Design Consulting, a firm that built some of the components used for CHESS-U.
“[CHESS-U] created many new manufacturing jobs across the Southern Tier. There are over 20 manufacturing companies across the Southern Tier that has helped manufacture different components for CHESS-U. This support has allowed ADC and the other twenty plus companies to expand our product offering to other facilities in the U.S. and around the world,” Deyhim said.
Boris Tsang ’21 contributed reporting to this article.