CARS HOMES JOBS

Utica getting the high-tech grants now

Saturday, December 1, 2012
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The state has sunk better than $100 million into the Luther Forest Technology Campus, and without that outlay GlobalFoundries wouldn’t have built its $7 billion computer chip plant.

But all indications are that without Joe Bruno on the tractor, that’s all the state fertilizer the tech campus will get.

The campus still needs big bucks for water and sewer extensions, and doesn’t even have entrance signs for what’s supposed to be a world-class technology center, but state officials are putting their cash elsewhere these days.

Some is being spent 80 miles west of here, where the SUNY Institute of Technology has received $25 million toward developing the Marcy Nanocenter.

The Oneida-Herkimer economic development agency, Mohawk Valley EDGE — which sounds cool, but stands for Economic Development Growth Enterprises — says the site outside Utica is “an ideal site for a semiconductor firm to locate their business.”

So far, though, several high-tech companies have looked, but none have committed. Marcy was the runner-up to Malta in the 2006 competition for what’s now the GlobalFoundries plant.

The proposed nanocenter — just a mile off the Thruway — doesn’t yet have the road, water and sewer lines in place that Luther Forest does, even though planning for it began in the late 1990s, when Luther Forest was only a napkin sketch. That was Bruno’s power to steer money into his district.

Still, Marcy was one of the sites — along with Luther Forest — recently shown quietly to a major technology company looking for a factory site.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Marcy on Wednesday as part of his statewide inspection tour of regional economic development progress.

In the last year, Mohawk Valley EDGE has been awarded state grants of $5 million each for a sewer upgrade and for construction of an industrial access road to SUNY-IT’s 420-acre “west campus,” where the nanocenter will be built.

Another $15 million has been awarded toward construction of a 165,000-square-foot research facility containing manufacturing clean rooms, laboratories and offices to be operated by SUNY-IT.

The research center will be used to assemble “system on chip” devices being developed in Albany, at the College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering. Cuomo’s office says it will mean 300 well-compensated jobs over the next three years for the Utica area, as part of an industry-academic partnership similar to the one at the University at Albany.

Utica, a city of 60,000 with renown for its rundown condition and job losses, currently has an 8.7 percent unemployment rate. So the jobs are needed.

Site selectors always say high-tech companies are looking for places with a good quality of life. Utica lacks a world-class racetrack or nationally known performing arts center.

On the other hand, it’s possible to be in Adirondack wilderness in less than an hour from there, and in the Finger Lakes wine country in less than two.

Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. He can be reached at 885-6705 or swilliams@dailygazette.net.

 
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