CenterState CEO Joins Team of Partners in ESD's Upstate Defense Initiative

Posted on June 6, 2024

microelectronic stock image PCB

Upstate Defense Initiative Will Expand Workforce Development, Accelerate Startups, and Grow Microelectronics Manufacturers that Serve Defense Industry Needs 

Empire State Development (ESD) announced the launch of the Upstate Defense Initiative, funded by a $5 million award secured by its Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR). Bringing together NYSTAR, CenterState CEO, the Griffiss Institute, FuzeHub and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the Upstate Defense Initiative will support workforce development, bolster supply chains and cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship to strengthen New York’s microelectronics and semiconductor industries. 

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “This innovative new program will increase the competitiveness of New York State manufacturers and grow industries that are critical to our nation’s defense. From expanding talent pipelines and early-stage accelerator programs to building resilient local supply chains, each organization involved in the Upstate Defense Initiative will contribute their unique expertise to develop a dynamic ecosystem where microelectronics and semiconductor companies will thrive and create new opportunities for New Yorkers.” 

Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation Director Mr. Patrick O’Brien said, “We are excited for the opportunity to support the New York State Microelectronics Defense Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and Workforce Consortium, also known as the Upstate Defense Initiative, through the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. This collaborative work will expand the capabilities of the defense industrial base, with a focus on microelectronics, by strengthening talent pipelines, cultivating an innovation ecosystem, and enhancing local supplier resilience not only in New York State, but in support of the Department as well.” 

The $5 million funding was awarded to ESD through the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program, led by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation. The program was created to support long-term community investments that strengthen innovation and expand the capabilities of the defense manufacturing ecosystem nationwide. The Upstate Defense Initiative’s program partners will work collaboratively to expand programs, develop new resources and engage stakeholders in pursuit of key program objectives that will support the growth of the microelectronics and defense industries.   


Workforce Development and Talent Pipelines 

CenterState CEO will work to strengthen and diversify the microelectronics industry’s talent pipeline by building capacity within regional training partners and expanding industry partnerships with employers and community organizations. This will ensure training and regional career outreach align with industry needs. Funding will also support expanded regional training and pre-training programs to better connect underrepresented individuals to high-tech careers. 

Among the specific workforce programs the funding supports, CenterState CEO’s new High-Tech Careers Bridge program will take a community-wide approach to help underemployed and unemployed individuals access the necessary skills to enter industry-specific training and provide a path to rewarding tech careers. Enrollment is set to begin in May 2024. 

To encourage more young New Yorkers to pursue tech careers, the Griffiss Institute will create a STEM Camp and Experiential STEM workshops for high school students and their teachers to break down any real or perceived barriers to careers in the defense and microelectronics industries. The programs will provide students with opportunities to meet regional companies and explore career paths.  

The D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is building a semi-conductor hub focused on the veteran and military-connected community. The hub will provide education, resources, off-ramps to training and employment placement for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses across New York State who are excited about a career in the semiconductor industry. 


Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Accelerator Programs 

The Griffiss Institute leads the only early-stage defense industry accelerator uniquely combining intense curriculum with seed-stage investments. Known as HUSTLE and supported by ESD, the program will open its eligibility to microelectronics technologists and entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their ventures in the defense industry beginning in Fall 2024. This strategic move will cultivate entrepreneurship and innovation to create a stronger, domestically produced microelectronics industry.  

HUSTLE, which works with pre-seed and seed-stage businesses, is an experiential program where company founders get support and investment to launch new solutions for the defense industry. Through this program, microelectronics company founders will now have a new opportunity to pursue investments of $200,000 or more.  

Additionally, to better serve microelectronics and defense-related entrepreneurs, CenterState CEO will be adding expertise and capabilities to GENIUS NY, an accelerator program supported by ESD that awards $3 million annually to startups focused on uncrewed aerial systems, automation and advanced air mobility, as well as the Syracuse Surge Accelerator, which provides resources and support for BIPOC entrepreneurs who want to start or grow tech or tech-adjacent startups.   


Supply Chain Resiliency  

FuzeHub, the statewide center for the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is working to connect major defense contractors in New York with small to medium-sized businesses that can help address supply chain issues and serve as permanent suppliers. 

FuzeHub is conducting an industry supply chain needs and gaps assessment through direct engagement with defense manufacturers. This assessment will also identify companies with the technology, resources and expertise to meet the identified needs and opportunities. This work will enable FuzeHub to serve as a clearinghouse of relevant resources to facilitate new collaborations among companies statewide and reinforce the connectivity of New York's defense and microelectronics ecosystem.  

These efforts to map the microelectronics supply chain within New York State will help expand the already thriving industry and reduce barriers to future growth through improved efficiency in the identification of critical resources within the state. 

Defense manufacturers, microelectronics startups, STEM educators and students interested in technology should contact FuzeHub or any of the program partners to learn more about how they can get involved.  


CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson said, “The Upstate Defense Initiative represents a critical investment in our region’s future as it will accelerate our ability to prepare for the transformational opportunities that are before us. We are proud to lead efforts to build capacity to ensure there is a strong pipeline of talent for careers in microelectronics. We will also focus on driving progress around innovation through GENIUS NY and the Syracuse Surge Accelerator. We look forward to working with all partners to advance these efforts and ensure this investment is leveraged to for sustainable and equitable growth. This program is further proof of Empire State Development’s continued commitment to Central New York’s success, and we thank them for their leadership and vision.”  

Griffiss Institute President and CEO Heather Hage said, “I am thrilled to express my strong support for the Upstate Defense Initiative. This initiative is poised to significantly enhance our region’s defense manufacturing capabilities, leveraging our rich legacy of leadership in this sector. By fostering talent, entrepreneurship, and robust supply chains, we are not only contributing to national security but also driving economic growth and innovation in Upstate New York and the Mohawk Valley. The Griffiss Institute is proud to be a partner in this transformative effort, and we look forward to collaborating with our esteemed partners to achieve these critical goals.”  

Dr. Mike Haynie, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, and D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families Founder and Executive Director, said, “Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families has a long history of delivering workforce training for our nations service members, veterans and military spouses. We are proud to be a part of the Upstate Defense Initiative and look forward to contributing to the regions defense capabilities with a highly trained talent pool of veterans and their families.” 

FuzeHub Executive Director Elena Garuc said, “Standing with our program partners, FuzeHub is ready to get to work and help ensure the Upstate Defense Initiative fuels the growth of microelectronics companies serving the defense industry. We encourage defense manufacturers, innovators working in microelectronics and semiconductors, business leaders interested in joining the supply chain, and individuals curious about tech careers to get involved and access the support the initiative will provide. Empire State Development continues to drive a significant economic impact as they work to build New York’s advanced manufacturing industry, and we are grateful for their partnership and collaboration with this important initiative.” 


About Empire State Development 

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

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