Onondaga County has the land, power and water to attract a chip manufacturer, but the education programs in technology at Onondaga Community College may have given the CNY area an edge over the competition in landing the $100 billion investment.

OCC faculty shared some details of the decisive final meetings with the company ahead of President Biden planned visit on Thursday.

Michael Grieb is chair of OCC's Applied Technology Department.

"These are trainers that we made that...allow students to explore both electrical and mechanical concepts, but they also learn how motors are coupled to mechanical systems to create motion and make things happen," Grieb said. "And the robots are not part of the normal curriculum.”

Staff shared with Micron the hands-on training and curriculum that their applied sciences programs provide. OCC representatives said their meetings with Micron occurred in late September toward the end of the process, but before the company announced on Oct. 4 that the chip manufacturer wanted to build a plant in CNY.

"In terms of working with Micron, you know, they came in like a whirlwind," Grieb said. "They brought us a lot of information. They asked a lot of good questions. And we, obviously, already had a lot of the answers that they must have liked to hear. But they also have a lot of new technology and new techniques that they're going to need us to teach things, like data analytics.”

Assistant Dean Buffy Quinn's passion for 'tech-ed' abilities was key in the Micron meetings too.

“(Michael) built all of those so that we could not only use them to train for specific systems, but so we can take them into the high schools and stuff," said Quinn, OCC's Natural and Applied Sciences assistant dean. "I don't know if he knows they're all on wheels."

When Quinn was summoned for a confidential meeting, she at first thought it was a typical industry partner meeting.

"We didn't really even know who this was," Quinn said. "And so we're sitting down at the meeting and they just start asking us questions about how we work with industry, technical, you know, our partners, how we build curriculum, how we do that kind of stuff. While I am in the meeting, I start to figure out who it is because like some of the questions were related to like clean room and semiconductors.”

It was serendipitous.

Quinn had already working to secure grant funding for a clean room in an area built to specifications in the Whitney Applied Technology Center.

“We are in the OCC Bookstore, and this is proposed to be the future site of the clean room that will support what we're, the curriculum that we're building with Micron and some of our other industry partners,” said Quinn.

OCC officials emphasized current industry partnerships and needs for skilled tech labor helped to boost their readiness for Micron.

“We already had a very vibrant local industry that needs this type of equipment and technicians to repair it and keep it running," Grieb said. "Companies like Inficon, like Marquardt Switches, JMA Wireless, already have a huge demand for these employees, but obviously with Micron coming, the game is going to get a lot more intense of trying to train more students and get them interested in this field.”

Interest should surge thanks to potential salaries.

“Typical starting salaries in the $60,000-$70,000 range for a two-year degree," Grieb said. "A grad from 2019 came back to tell us that he was making $120,000 a year working four days a week. And we were all jealous."

Technician demand will make up 80% of the workforce required to run the factory, OCC officials said. Micron representatives said they’ll need 9,000 workers, and projects 40,000 more new jobs added to the area as a result of the company's move to Onondaga County.