Region leads in race to lure IBM research facility

The Albany area is reportedly leading the upstate contest to attract an International Business Machi

The Albany area is reportedly leading the upstate contest to attract an International Business Machines semiconductor packaging research and development center that promises to employ 675.

The online technology news site on Wednesday reported that an IBM executive said at an industry conference that the computer chip packaging center would be situated in “Albany.” The executive, Gary Patton, later clarified that statement by instead saying the 120,000-square-foot computer chip packaging facility is bound for the “Albany region.”

Patton is the vice president of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center. An IBM spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

“It was shocking to me and raised a little concern. … I’m hoping it was not just a Freudian slip, that it was an error, that he meant upstate New York,” Timothy Dunn said of the “Albany” comment.

Dunn is the vice president of marketing and business development for the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corp., the Rome-based economic development agency attempting to bring the IBM project to Oneida County. He attended the Industry Strategy Symposium in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where Patton made the comment concerning the packaging facility’s location.

Since Gov. David Paterson in July announced plans for the packaging center at a “yet-to-be determined upstate location,” economic development agencies from across the region have been vying to snag the project.

The governor said the center would be managed and owned by the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. IBM would conduct operations at the center, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute would be a research partner.

Paterson’s recently released executive budget includes $50 million for the packaging center project plus $25 million for a NanoCollege initiative. Even with New York facing a $15.4 billion deficit by March 2010, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Glenville, said the state must invest in job-creation projects.

“It’s a bit early to say what will stand or hold in the budget, but it’s never too early for you to make your case for the environment you can provide,” said Tedisco. He called the Capital Region “a wonderful place” for the IBM packaging center.

In July, the governor announced that IBM would invest $1.5 billion in upstate projects in return for $140 million in state economic development grants. He said the IBM would invest $375 million in the NanoCollege to expand its advanced semiconductor tooling operation. The state would put an additional $25 million toward that initiative, which promises to create 325 new research and development jobs.

A Paterson spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. A NanoCollege spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Mohawk Valley EDGE has been attempting to establish central New York as a force in the nanotechnology industry, particularly with its 300-acre Marcy NanoCenter on the State University of New York Institute of Technology campus. Dunn envisions the IBM packaging center being built on a lot adjacent to the NanoCenter in Marcy.

“We continue to be told we’re still in the running,” Dunn said.

The NanoCenter is similar to Malta’s Luther Forest Technology Campus: a shovel-ready site primed for a chip manufacturing plant. An Advanced Micro Devices spinoff company called The Foundry Co. plans to break ground on a $4.6 billion chip manufacturing plant in Luther Forest later this year.

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