Five Schenectady County projects put on regional funding wish list

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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— Schenectady County has landed five priority projects on the Capital Region Economic Development Council’s wish list for the latest round of state funding through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Council Initiative.

These priority projects range in size and scope from a new transnational railroad shipping terminal in Rotterdam to transforming an underutilized building in downtown Schenectady to serve as a business accelerator for technology startups. The council included them among a list of 46 projects in eight Capital Region counties that will be submitted to the state this week for consideration.

The state’s 10 regional councils are vying for five awards of $25 million and five awards of $5 million, said council member Michael Tucker, who also serves as president of the Center for Economic Growth. He said the projects forwarded by the council present a compelling case for state funding, considering that they each demonstrate ability to create jobs and a capacity to leverage private investment. Price tags for the proposals are not included on the list.

“We believe we have an excellent group of recommended projects that will put us in a position to compete vigorously for the $25 million awards,” he said Monday.

Among the projects is a massive expansion aimed at growing Railex in the Rotterdam Corporate Park. The proposed project would grow the company’s facility by 64,000 square feet and would create an estimated 100 jobs at the facility.

In addition, the Galesi Group would construct a 100,000-square-foot warehouse that would work in concert with the Railex operation. The larger warehouse would serve as a facility other companies could use to backfill Railex trains heading back across the country after emptying freight in Rotterdam.

“It would be a large investment and new jobs,” said Ray Gillen, the chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.

Railex Senior Vice President Paul Esposito said the expansion would be part of a company initiative to build a Southeast corridor to add to ones already serving Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. He said the company has increased the number of boxcars that enter Rotterdam annually from roughly 2,000 in 2007 to 7,700 last year.

“We have just started the planning stage of expansion and rail expansion,” he said. “We are poising ourselves for growth.”

Also on the list for Schenectady County is a project that would create a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for Mohawk Lift. Gillen said the company that manufactures heavy-duty vehicle lifts for customers around the nation has outgrown its location in neighboring Montgomery County.

Another project receiving priority status is Transfinder’s proposal to purchase the First Niagara Building on lower State Street in Schenectady so that part of it can be renovated into the NYBizLab. This facility would serve as a business accelerator targeted specifically at startup software companies.

Gillen said the bank would lease back part of the building. He said Transfinder, which is poised to move into its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters on State Street, is also interested in securing some of the space for its own growing operation.

The modern-style bank built in 1960 by the Schenectady Savings and Loan Association features wide expanses of marble and granite. One of the area’s first drive-thru teller windows — connected to the main building by pneumatic tube — was built in the rear parking lot.

“It’s an underutilized building on lower State Street,” Gillen said. “It would bring a lot of activity and economic development.”

Northeast Parent and Child Society’s project to buy and renovate the Schenectady’s Brandywine firehouse into a headquarters for a new youth training program was another project given priority status. The agency is proposing to purchase the structure and use it for its new weatherization and energy efficiency youth program.

Funding is also being sought for an expansion of the energy-generating system at Proctors designed to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce the costs associated with energy consumption. The 26,000-square-foot energy plant helps generate electricity for the theater and helps heat nearby buildings on State Street.

“We are very pleased that we continue to get great support from the regional council,” Gillen said of the county’s priority proposals.

The council received $62.7 million for 88 projects last year during the first round of funding through the initiative. The funding was among $785 million dispersed across the 10 regions as a way to spark job creation and community development.

Tucker said the obvious goal is to get as much funding as possible for the latest round of proposals. But even if some projects aren’t funded, he said the process of submitting proposals at least generated discussions about future regional plans.

“It brings people together on a regional basis to discuss regional priorities,” he said.

 

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