A new bill could help manufacturing communities like Yonkers get their hands on millions of federal funding dollars.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited lithium metal producer alpha-En Corp.’s new manufacturing and research center at 28 Wells Ave. in Yonkers to promote the Made in America Manufacturing Communities Act. The bill would create a permanent program to designate certain regions of the country as Manufacturing Communities, giving them preferred consideration when applying for federal funding. According to Gillibrand, there is $1.3 billion in federal economic development funding available for manufacturing.
Under existing legislation, 24 communities across the country are designated as manufacturing communities, including the city of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region in New York. That legislation is set to expire at the end of this year, but Gillibrand aims to make the program permanent with this bill.
There are no guarantees that Westchester County or Yonkers would be designated as manufacturing communities if the legislation passes.
“We want to make sure that it is a fully authorized program and that it allows places across New York to continue to be able to apply to get this designation,” Gillibrand said.
To earn the designation, communities must demonstrate the significance that manufacturing has on their region, along with making investments in areas such as workforce training, advanced research and infrastructure development.
“Not only does that unleash more federal dollars, but it also creates synergies to encourage other manufacturers to locate there and that would create jobs locally,” New York’s junior Democratic senator said.
The bipartisan bill’s Senate co-sponsors include U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat. A bipartisan House version also has been introduced. Gillibrand said she hopes to the legislation will pass the Senate if not this fall when it returns to session, then by the end of the year.
Gillibrand said that alpha-En’s decision to open an advanced manufacturing space in Yonkers will be a “model for businesses all over the country who might be interested in coming here to open up businesses and might not be sure if Yonkers is the place to do it.”
“This shows us that Yonkers is an ideal place to open up a manufacturing business, and I look forward to seeing many more like it in Yonkers and the rest of Westchester,” she said.
Founded in 2008, alpha-En develops sustainable technologies to produce lithium metal for batteries and the nuclear power industry. In 2013, the company developed a process to produce high-purity lithium metal, which is traditionally produced at very high temperatures, at room temperature. This new process allows the company to substantially reduce production costs and carbon emissions. Founder and CFO Jerome I. Feldman said the products manufactured at its new headquarters will “be the future of the energy world.”
Formerly based in Tarrytown, the company plans to move its entire operation and global headquarters to the Yonkers facility, which should be operational by the end of this year, according to Emilie Bodoin, the company’s director of business development.
Alpha-En’s facility is on the second floor of the 28 Wells Ave. building at iPark Hudson, the 24-acre technology, manufacturing and office campus on the downtown Yonkers waterfront district that was formerly the site of Otis Elevator Co. The 8,000-square-foot space, which boasts 25-foot ceilings, will be designed with high-tech clean rooms for the laboratory and processing equipment along with executive office space for the company’s international operations.
“We hope to remain here in Yonkers for as long as we can,” Feldman said.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said the city has seen a resurgence over the last decade, with more than $1 billion invested in the its economic redevelopment.
“We have enormous potential as a home for manufacturing,” he said, noting the presence of employers such as Domino Sugar at 1 Federal St. and Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. at 29 Wells Ave.
“I know that many people outside of Yonkers might not think of Yonkers as a high-tech manufacturing hub, but wait and see,” Gillibrand said. “We have one of the most diverse and talented workforces in the entire country and that makes us perfectly suited for an economic development boom.”