Saratoga County

AMD aid package critics outnumbered

Plans for the $4.6 billion Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant have a lot of public suppor


Plans for the $4.6 billion Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant have a lot of public support, but it isn’t universal.

Twelve speakers at a public hearing on $1.2 billion in state incentives for the project said it would be money well spent, while two were opposed, saying it was too much to offer one company.

“The priorities here are misplaced. We’re missing opportunities to invest in local businesses,” said Bob Radliff of Stillwater, one of the opponents who spoke at a hearing sponsored by Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development agency.

Supporters said the plant will provide good jobs, and lead to creation of more jobs in the surrounding area.

“I really believe this is an investment in my kids’ future,” said John Harrington of Malta.

Most speakers focused on the overall picture, though the hearing was actually only on transferring an existing incentive package from AMD to The Foundry Co., a new spinoff company being created to own AMD’s manufacturing facilities.

The Foundry Co. is a partnership between AMD and the Advanced Technology Investment Fund of Abu Dhabi. ATIF will be investing $2.1 billion in the venture, and will be the majority owner — with a 65.8 percent share, under a revised agreement announced Monday because AMD’s stock price has fallen since the deal was announced in October.

The Luther Forest Technology Campus plant would start construction next summer, and be finished in 2012. Construction would employ 1,500 to 2,000 people, and once it’s running, the factory would employ about 1,465.

“In light of the current economic climate, we are fortunate to have a project of this magnitude coming to Saratoga County,” said Phil Tucker, vice president of the Greater Capital Region Building Constructions Trade Council.

Representatives of two chambers of commerce, the Ballston Spa and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school districts, and several economic development organizations also spoke in favor.

But critic Kyle York of Saratoga Springs said the actual public investment to date is $1.367 billion, while AMD has lost billions of dollars and seen its stock price slide from $42 to $2 a share since the Luther Forest plant was first announced in 2006.

“This is a company in trouble, but we’re still saying we’ll partner with you,” York said.

He said Saratoga County residents will be in a “disaster zone” if the plans fall through, because of the cost of the $67 million county water system now under construction, in large part because of the AMD plant’s needs.

Joe Dalton, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and a leader of the Luther Forest development effort, noted there could eventually be two more plants, each with another 1,000 employees, plus thousands of more jobs at companies that support computer chip fabricators.

He said incentive packages like the $1.2 billion are necessary to attract big high-tech projects.

“Our competition is no longer North Carolina or Texas or California, our competition is worldwide,” Dalton said.

Empire State Development’s board voted last week to support the incentives transfer.

The project “will create a major presence within the Luther Forest Technology Campus and is the direct result of the state’s long-term economic development initiatives to attract high-tech manufacturing facilities,” according to the agency’s narrative.

The final state vote on the transfer, when comments at the public hearing will be considered, will come at a meeting of the Public Authorities Control Board at 2 p.m. Dec. 17 in Albany.

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