Employment opportunities eyed as local industry grows

In July, 2015, it was announced that the Rochester region won a nationwide competition to become the site for the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics ("AIM Photonics") — an institute focusing on the field of integrated photonics. For many, the news of the award led to curiosity about photonics and the implications of photonics industry growth for employment opportunities in and around Rochester.

The term "photonics" is relatively new to many in the Rochester area, although the word is sometimes used interchangeably with the more familiar term "optics." Optics and photonics are closely related, but the meaning of the terms can vary somewhat depending on the context in which the terms are applied. "Optics" is typically used in reference to the classical concept of light rays (for example, in dealing with the transmission, reflection and absorption of light). In contrast, the term "photonics" emphasizes the particle properties of light. Photonics often refers to technologies embodied in optical instruments and the industries related to such instruments. Photonics is important in a variety of fields, including consumer electronics, telecommunications, health, manufacturing, defense and security, and entertainment.

News regarding the growth of the photonics industry in Rochester also has led to speculation regarding the types and quantity of jobs that photonics might bring to the area. At the time of the announcement regarding AIM Photonics, officials stated that the growth of the photonics industry had the potential to bring many new job opportunities to the area. For example, individuals with knowledge of the industry report that local companies are hiring entry-level workers, with the starting salary for optical technicians in the range of $35,000 to $45,000.

According to patent attorney Neal Slifkin, the leader of the Intellectual Property Law Practice Group and coleader of the Photonics Industry Team at Harris Beach PLLC, and also a member of the board of directors of New York Photonics, "the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into the photonics industry in the Rochester region will result in the creation of thousands of new jobs, and will solidify Rochester’s position as one of the world’s leading regions for the photonics industry." More information about employment opportunities related to photonics is expected to become available as the industry continues to grow locally.

Ormaechea is an attorney with the law firm Harris Beach PLLC and a member of the Rochester Hispanic Business Association’s board of directors.

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