Michael Ulbrich, a Western New York native and a JP Morgan Chase vice president, has been named president of the advanced manufacturing institute that the state is creating in the Buffalo Niagara region.
Ulbrich, a 2004 graduate of Lehigh University and an industrial engineer by training, will oversee the EWI New York initiative, which aims to support the growth of Western New York’s advanced manufacturing companies by providing access to equipment and resources that the companies might not otherwise be able to afford on their own.
“EWI New York has the potential to make a huge impact on the future of manufacturing and the economy of Buffalo Niagara,” Ulbrich said.
The institute, which will be located in the former Smart Pill building at 847 Main St. in Buffalo for the first few years of its existence, is one of the key initiatives backed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion pledge to revive the local economy.
The $45 million institute, which will open in stages, starting with some operations this summer, is envisioned as a resource center where local manufacturers, especially small to midsize companies, can share resources and work with experts and engineers to develop new products and services that will make them more competitive in the global market. State officials also hope the center will help local manufacturers push into new markets that will help their businesses grow.
The institute will be operated by EWI, an Ohio consultant that specializes in helping companies develop innovative products. EWI has been working with state officials since early last year to create a plan for the manufacturing institute.
That plan calls for the manufacturing center to have top-notch technical capabilities in targeted areas that local manufacturers can use, such as flexible automation and controls and advanced materials. The center also will have capabilities in the fields of additive processes and advanced fabrication.
About half of the facility will consist of laboratories. The rest will be for meeting rooms and office space.
The idea behind the manufacturing institute is to create a center where manufacturers can work with engineers or use sophisticated equipment to help them turn ideas for new products into reality.
Smaller companies typically can’t afford to take on those types of development projects individually, but the manufacturing center is expected to be able to allow those firms to pursue projects at a significantly lower cost because they are sharing the center’s resources with other local businesses.
EWI expects to employ about 30 to 35 people at the institute within five years.
The hiring of a president for the Buffalo institute has been viewed as a key milestone in the efforts to get the center up and running.
Ulbrich has spent the past decade working at JP Morgan Chase, including an initiative that began in 2008 to explore new business and private banking opportunities in Scandinavia.
That effort eventually led to JP Morgan Chase opening a private bank in the Nordic region, with Ulbrich serving as its vice president.
Henry Cialone, EWI’s president, said Ulbrich’s broad experience, which ranges from engineering and business development to operations and finance, is expected to be valuable as the Buffalo manufacturing institute ramps up.
“Michael’s skill set is just what is needed,” said Howard Zemsky, the co-chairman of the regional economic development council.