Talks focus on offering incentives in Luther Forest
MALTA & STILLWATER There’s progress on providing business incentives and resolving other issues that are impeding the Luther Forest Technology Campus, regional officials said Friday.
“At this point, I think great progress has been struck,” said U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who formed the ad hoc group of local and regional officials last spring to ponder the tech park’s problems.
The roughly 25 people who came together Friday at Hudson Valley Community College’s TEC-SMART facility represented state and local government, private industry and regional economic development organizations. They are trying to find ways to revitalize the campus, where there’s been no activity since GlobalFoundries located its Fab 8 factory there in 2009.
The lack of action has driven the park’s nonprofit corporate owner into insolvency and raised questions about the future of a 1,440-acre property in both Malta and Stillwater where the state has invested great hope for the future — and more than $100 million.
The park’s troubles are being followed in Washington, Tonko said, as the Capital Region emerges as a recognized high-tech hub.
Tonko said all parties need to reach an agreement on what should happen at the campus — including the town of Malta, which many observers think needs to allow new economic development incentives to bring more businesses into the park.
“All [of us] speaking from the same page, there’s strength in that,” Tonko said.
The park’s supporters will go to the Malta Town Board on Monday night to explain why they think zoning changes to allow incentives are needed, along with changes to allow more kinds of businesses in the park.
“I think that is one of the several things that would address the concerns,” said Greg Conners, who handles local government relations for GlobalFoundries and has been working on Tonko’s effort. “Our subcommittee believes it will improve the marketability and desirability of the Luther Forest Technology Campus.”
Saratoga Springs Realtor J. Thomas Roohan, who chairs the park’s ownership, the LFTC Economic Development Corp., said more types of businesses need to be allowed at the park.
“[Prospective businesses] don’t want to start with a zoning change. There’s enough issues when they’re trying to build something,” Roohan said.
But Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville said a second factory at GlobalFoundries — already approved, though the company isn’t yet pursuing the plans — could use all the park’s available infrastructure and add 5,700 more jobs at a site that already has more than 2,000.
“It’s an enormous challenge,” Sausville said.
Sausville also questioned the wisdom of offering tax breaks to attract new businesses.
“If you’re looking for an educated workforce and cut back in schools on money that would otherwise come from economic development, there’s a kind of contradiction there,” he said.
Carrie Woerner, a Round Lake village trustee, said incentives need to be clear and well-defined. She said businesses consider them as a measure of whether a community wants them
“Think of it as a welcome mat,” she said.
The group also discussed how to fund a roughly $500,000 regional traffic study — something that could help justify construction of a new Northway exit, Exit 11A, near the campus. Many residents believe a new exit would reduce GlobalFoundries’ impact on the local road system.
A regional study would look at traffic generators other than the campus, including new housing in Ballston and heavy truck traffic due to a new intermodal railroad yard in Halfmoon.
To date, Saratoga County and the town of Stillwater have each offered $50,000 toward the study, and part of a $169,000 townwide environmental study being done by Malta will focus on traffic. There’s also the possibility National Grid would pay as much as $250,000 from its economic development funds. GlobalFoundries also may contribute, said Mike Russo, the company’s director of government affairs.
“The sooner it happens, the better,” said Mechanicville county Supervisor Tom Richardson.
One Malta official said the region shouldn’t waste the opportunity the tech park represents.
“I think we need to get consensus quickly as to what needs to happen in the tech campus, and what’s realistic,” said Malta Councilman John Hartzell. “What we have here is really like capturing lightning in a bottle.”