It was welcome news to read the story about how the technology incubator at the former Trico Products plant in downtown Buffalo is experiencing space problems.
The grand vision for the Innovation Center of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is playing out right before our eyes.
Its continuing success is worthy of the financial and technical aid Sen. Charles E. Schumer is trying to get from the Economic Development Administration, which has helped similar operations around the country. He has promised that the federal government will help finance efforts to double the facility's size.
All this would have been hard to believe nearly a decade ago when the last workers at the massive Trico Products complex on Ellicott Street were let go, the victims of cheaper production along the Texas-Mexico border. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus acquired the complex through a bankruptcy auction a few years ago and has since shepherded creation of the four-story, 128,000-square-foot Innovation Center.
The acquisition and build-out of a center to nurture science, research and technology happened thanks to the cooperation and assistance of city, state and federal governments. The need to expand from its nearly fully occupied space is testament to the success of the dream of transforming what was once a manufacturing behemoth employing hundreds and hundreds of workers making windshield wipers.
Patrick Whalen, chief operating officer of the Innovation Center, explained that after only 15 months, 31 companies are now working under the center's auspices, employing about 83 people, all of them able to share ideas and resources as they grow their businesses.
The idea, he said, is to nurture small firms with only a handful of employees that grow in the incubator and then expand into surrounding Buffalo. One simple way the incubator fosters that growth is by allowing workers to share ideas on problem-solving and collaboration while grabbing a cup of coffee together.
The Innovation Center has been so successful at providing that atmosphere that it's now a full house. The expanded Innovation Center will need continued resolve at the state level to help the center identify federal funding opportunities and attract more high-tech companies.
In the shell of 20th century Buffalo manufacturing we are starting to see the birth of 21st century research and technology. That shift from windshield wipers to cutting-edge research is testament to the belief that reuse is possible and eventually profitable.