Outlook 2012: Tech Valley firms’ growth leading to hiring surge

Thanks to the industries that have earned the region the nickname “Tech Valley,” new manufacturing j

Thanks to the industries that have earned the region the nickname “Tech Valley,” new manufacturing jobs will be coming to the Capital Region in 2012.

The GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta, General Electric in Schenectady, and a world-renowned academic-industrial research program at the University at Albany are all expected to do signifi cant hiring this year.

Each is an example of the region bucking the trend that has seen manufacturing jobs flee upstate for decades.

GlobalFoundries is starting test production this year, fi ve years after plans for the plant were first made public and 18 months after ground was broken on the $4.6 billion factory.

The June 2006 announcement about the plant — and the $1.4 billion incentive package New York state offered to bring it here — got attention around the world.

The original owner, Advanced Micro Devices, incurred severe fi nancial losses during the recession, which deepened the skepticism of some people about whether its factory would ever be built.

But it has been. The huge factory is hidden from most people’s view, deep in the Luther Forest woods, but as of this winter, GlobalFoundries has more than 1,000 employees on site, and it will be hiring hundreds more in the coming year.

Company officials expect their payroll to hit 1,500 by the end of the year, with a total annual payroll in the $90 million range.

“We’ll be hiring probably 400 more employees in 2012. We’ve got a lot more recruiting and hiring to do in the coming year,” said GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard.

More local hiring

In 2011, he said, GlobalFoundries’ hiring was split almost evenly between bringing in experienced technical hands from around the world to get the plant off the ground, and local people who will probably be technicians and machine operators. “In ’12, our focus is going to be much more on local hiring,” Bullard said.

“The bulk will be at the technician level. We’ll be working closely with the community colleges,” he said, referring to the nanotechnology training programs being established by Hudson Valley Community College and other colleges.

The employees who operate and maintain the chip-making equipment earn at least $35,000 to $40,000, and in some cases much more. The average annual salary at GlobalFoundries will be around $60,000.

The predicted GlobalFoundries spinoff jobs will be coming to the region in 2012, too.

Service and supply companies like Advanced Materials and Tokyo Electronic began arriving in Saratoga County last year — and those kinds of companies are expected to keep growing.

“These are suppliers who will come, get their feet on the ground, and then expand as GlobalFoundries grows,” said Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. “We’re looking at maybe a half-dozen more suppliers coming in, with 100 to 125 jobs,” Brobston said. “Last year, we had about 13 suppliers come in, creating 200 to 250 jobs.”

Amkor Technology, which assembles and tests semiconductors and may be entering a partnership with GlobalFoundries, could be creating another 110 jobs in the Saratoga area, according to Empire State Development Corp.

GlobalFoundries and its network of suppliers aren’t the only game in Saratoga County, though.

The Pan Am-Southern intermodal railroad yard in Halfmoon will be opening this year, and jobs in transportation and warehousing will follow.

“Pan Am-Southern is talking to people. We’re expecting by the end of the year there will be growth because of them,” Brobston said.

Battery plant, nanotech

In Schenectady, meanwhile, General Electric will continue ramping up its new advanced battery manufacturing plant at its main campus. Hiring began last year, and the plant will mean 350 or more new jobs by 2015, company officials have said. GE is converting Building 66, a former steam turbine manufacturing center, into a $160 million plant that will make the Durathon, a next-generation locomotive battery.

The plant is expected to produce one million batteries for hybrid locomotives in 2012, and 10 million a year when it reaches full capacity in 2015.

GE, which for decades was better known for its downsizing in Schenectady as the large steam turbine business declined, has seen a turnaround in the last decade. Its wind power headquarters is in the city now, and the company’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna has also added research and science jobs.

“We’ve been very fortunate in Schenectady County. We’ve had eight GE expansions since 2004, with a total of 1,100 jobs,” said Ray Gillen, Schenectady County’s commissioner of economic development and planning.

In Albany, the College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering at the University at Albany will be another center for high-tech job growth in 2012.

A new research building going up on Washington Avenue will house the Global 450 Consortium, with labs and clean-room space where semiconductor companies will develop 450mm silicon wafers to replace the current 300mm wafers used to make computer chips. The larger wafers are expected to increase industrial effi ciency.

The $4.4 billion Global 450 Consortium is getting nearly 90 percent of its funding through private companies like Intel, IBM, and GlobalFoundries, though the state is putting in $400 million.

College officials are high on the consortium, which was announced with great fanfare by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last September.

“That’s a huge project. It brings all the industry players to Albany for the first time. It’s a tremendous competitive advantage for us,” said Dean Fuleihan, the college’s executive vice president for strategic partnerships.

“These are jobs that will have average pay of $87,000,” said nanocollege spokesman Steve Janack. “These are high-value jobs that will pump a significant amount of money into the local economy.”

The consortium is expected to create at least 800 new research-related jobs over the next few years, with the first coming in 2012. The consortium building is scheduled to be completed around the end of the year, with installation of semiconductor manufacturing tools starting “in the third quarter,” Fuliehan said.

Albany Nanotech has 2,600 people already working in a variety of private-public research partnerships that started with semiconductor manufacturing and have widened in recent years to include solar cell production, medical devices, and others uses for nanotechnology.

A $50 million federal grant for solar energy research is also expected to create jobs at the college this year.

But not all of the new jobs anticipated in the Capital Region 2012 will require employees to have high-tech skills.

A new Target discount store under construction in Glenville will need 150 to 200 “associates” when it opens, and the ShopRite supermarket chain has plans to add stores in Slingerlands and Colonie, to go with markets that opened in 2011 in Niskayuna and Albany. Each store has hundreds of full- and part-time employees.

“ShopRite wasn’t in even in the market a year ago. They’ve been a huge success,” Gillen said.

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