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Where are the high-tech jobs? Buffalo, says 43North


The money that has gone into the annual 43North competition is starting to make some money and provide jobs - jobs from working in gardens to predictive data science.
This all showed up Thursday at the 500 Seneca St. complex, with the usual signs of a job fair: good clothes, folders of resumes and those Human Resources people who know what they are looking for. 43North Board Chair Eric Reich was there to do some bragging about what $5 million a year can do in economic development.

"I'm very pleased to say that these efforts are paying off for Buffalo," Reich said. "Earlier this year, we announced that the 43North companies had raised more than $200 million in venture capital and today I am excited to announce they have reached yet another milestone: 43North portfolio companies have generated more than 400 jobs in Western New York and are hiring for dozens more."

Reich said 43North also helps through "mentorships, incubator space, marketing exposure, access to the Start Up New York Program, connections to potential customers and hiring support."

Some of the 43North winners are in the early stages, while others are like car auction company ACV, which now has 500 workers - half local - up from 200 at the beginning of last year.

Brian McIlroy, director of corporate development for high-tech spinoff Tactiva Therapeutics, said his cancer drug company is looking for people.

"We're looking for some highly technical people to run organizations. We're also looking for lab people. We're looking for a documentation specialist, for example, those types of things, who will help us grow as a business entity, as well as the science," McIlroy said.

McIlroy said the company expects to have 18 more employees by the end of the year.

Jonathan Willcox, Vice President of Finance for TROVE Predictive Data Science, said his company is another growing fast, hiring upscale skills people.

Credit 43North
SparkCharge CEO Joshua Aviv pictured with 43North President Alex Gress, and NYS Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul during the press conference following the 2018 competition at Shea's Performing Arts Center.

"We just came to the Medical Campus about a year ago. Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus recruited us down," Wilcox said. "They're really starting to create a good tech hub there, which is awesome for us being in that environment of other technology companies. We know that the type of people that we are hiring have a lot of opportunities and so being in a cool environment with a lot of other smart people doing cool things is really helpful."

He said it also helps that the University at Buffalo has a lot of people being trained in this kind of work, with the startup company and the university working together.

SomaDetect Chief Design Officer Nicholas Clermont was there also.

"Buffalo's been great for us. Over the last year, we have created over 14 jobs here in Buffalo and we're currently in the process of hiring for 12 more," Clermont said. "So we're looking for anything around software engineering, software quality people. We're looking for a software manager that can come and help us really organize a team around this. We're looking for office administrators and a lot of people that can come and really help us grow the company."

The high-tech company works with dairy farmers to help cows make better, higher quality milk. Liz Tsai is CEO of HiOperator, the voice at the other end of the help line.

"We provide U.S.-based customer service, Apple service, so you can think of us as a really high-tech call center, where we believe automation has a key role to play in the future of customer service," Tsai said. "But it's really about using automation to augment really great humans rather than replace them. So we've been at Buffalo with the current Start Up New York since the beginning of this year and we've hired over 15 people in the last few months."

The local high-tech industry is on a hiring spree, from companies helping sell used cars to better battery charging. There were also less techy companies, landscape gardening, dance instruction in schools and offices and, of course, an energy bar company.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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