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Kaloyeros: ‘Like the Bills winning the Superbowl’

Leave it to Alain E. Kaloyeros, the salesman-scientist with the outsized personality, to succinctly explain how a clean-energy campus planned for a South Buffalo brownfield is connected to his multibillion-dollar university research megaplex in Albany.

The $1.7 billion high-tech development eyed for the former Republic Steel site here won’t make computer chips, so how will this green-energy project tie in to the nanotechnology economy now booming at the other end of the state?

To answer this question for a roomful of people, Kaloyeros took his smartphone out of his pocket.

The SUNY Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering run by Kaloyeros develops ever-smaller and more-powerful computer chips, including those that run smartphones, tablets and laptops, Kaloyeros said.

The two companies moving to the RiverBend site – Soraa and Silevo – work in the green-energy realm where the batteries and the lights behind the screen displays for those devices are made, he said.

The other tie that binds the two projects is Kaloyeros himself – and he wasn’t shy about predicting success for his latest high-tech initiative.

“Folks, this is real. This is like the Yankees coming to Buffalo. This is like the Bills winning the Super Bowl,” he said at Thursday’s news conference in Adam’s Mark Hotel.

Kaloyeros was in town Thursday to help Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announce the $1.7 billion clean-energy facility because the governor has tabbed the high-octane, preternaturally enthusiastic researcher as his economic-development point person in the state. The project includes $225 million from the state and $750 million from each of the two private companies moving in.

Kaloyeros’ nanotech college leveraged a 20-year, $1 billion state investment into $13 billion in private-sector investment – including massive computer-chip plants scattered across the Capital District – and Cuomo wants to follow the same model for Buffalo.

“Dr. Kaloyeros is the father of the nanoscale, nanoscience Albany revolution,” Cuomo told the The Buffalo News Editorial Board.

Kaloyeros is a sports-car aficionado and the highest-salaried state worker, at $1.3 million, but he prefers a black T-shirt and jeans to Saville Row suits.

He already played economic-development rainmaker once for Buffalo in helping to persuade Albany Molecular Research Inc. to take the role of anchor tenant in a life-sciences innovation center, planned for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and fueled by a $50 million state investment.

The AMRI project would follow the same course as the nanotech center and the planned clean-energy campus here – the state pays to construct, and equip, a cutting-edge research and development building that attracts high-tech companies to the region.

The state doesn’t directly pay a subsidy to the companies, limiting the loss if a company backs out of a deal or later goes bankrupt because the state still will own the facilities, Kaloyeros and the governor said.

“These guys are not getting a dollar of state money,” Kaloyeros told reporters after the governor’s news conference, noting that the Obama administration is trying to learn from this model.

Cuomo said the state can’t create a second nanotech center here, but he believes New York has placed its chips on the correct new industry to focus on for a high-tech facility in Buffalo using the same public-private partnership.

“I think the area is right, the industry is right and the model is right,” Cuomo told the editorial board.

The nanotech college will help evaluate proposals from developers for the project and will help manage the state-owned facility once it is constructed, Kaloyeros said. Also, Soraa, one of the companies relocating to Buffalo, has been and will continue to be a research partner with the nanotech college.

Kaloyeros said he’s prepared to head west from his Albany home base to the home of the Bills as much as needed.

“I work for the governor, and so this is a high-priority project for the governor. And I expect that – I never thought in my life I would be in Buffalo five, six times in less than two months,” he said.