With the announcement in March of two tech companies moving into Cobleskill’s Guilford Mills under the START-UP NY program, the long-vacant mill is solidly on its way to becoming the economic gem county leaders have envisioned for years.
The former textile mill, an 468,000-square-foot shell of a factory about a mile from SUNY Cobleskill, was sold to Green Recycling Solutions International for $2.5 million last September, ending the county’s five-year search for a buyer. At the time, it was announced GRSI would partner with four other companies that wanted to move into the mill, with GRSI footing the $4 million to $5 million bill for extensive renovations, altogether bringing more than 900 jobs to the county.
One of those companies, Sakat Consulting, was one of the two recently approved for START-UP NY, which allows new, expanding or out-of-state businesses to operate tax-free for a decade in designated zones near college campuses — in this case, SUNY Cobleskill. The college devoted 125,000 acres of the 200,000-acre START-UP zone to Guilford Mills.
“We’re very pleased to have the first couple of companies that will be moving into that place approved,” said Jason Evans, associate professor of agricultural business management at SUNY Cobleskill and the campus representative for START-UP NY. “For sure, it’s going to be good for the community. That’s been an empty asset for many, many years, and the fact that it can now be rehabbed and generate jobs is very good for Cobleskill and Schoharie County.”
Sakat is a new enterprise that plans to invest $10 million to establish technology research and development and telemarketing centers in the mill, creating 102 new net jobs.
The other company announced last month was Eco Convergence Group Inc., the American arm of Norwegian-American engineering company ECG Iveron AS, which specializes in developing sustainable technology. Its planned $19 million investment would create 52 new net jobs.
“Eco Convergence will be a major player,” said Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry, who also leads the county’s economic development efforts and brokered the sale of Guilford Mills last year. “I think the fact that they are an established, very well financed, existing multinational company, I think that’s what probably put them to the top of the list. They have resources to put into the infrastructure in conjunction with GRSI’s money, and they really want to become a part of that START-UP NY program.”
Of the other three businesses initially announced for the mill, two still have applications before New York’s Empire State Development Corp. for the START-UP NY program: USA Intimates, a lingerie manufacturing startup, which plans to employ 340 people; and Echelon, which patented a bulletproof cloth made from titanium beads and plans to hire 67 people.
The third, an agricultural company called Aeon, is no longer in the running, though no reason was stated Thursday.
In addition to those, according to Evans, there is one other company with a START-UP application pending, though he declined to name it.
Down the road, Cherry said, he thinks there will be space for more companies. GRSI has already begun talking about expanding or constructing another building, which Cherry called “very exciting,” albeit with a healthy dose of caution.
“The first thing that has to happen is the infrastructure has to be done [on the existing building],” said Cherry, adding that that work should be underway this year.
The county closed the sale with GRSI, which will act as a sort of umbrella corporation at the site, on Dec. 3, said Cherry. In exchange for GRSI taking full financial responsibility for renovation, it was allowed to pay just $5,000 at closing, with annual payments starting at $60,000 and increasing to $81,629 by the end of the fifth year. At the end of the fifth year, if all job creation requirements and other promises have been met, the company will make a balloon payment of $2.14 million, according to the purchase agreement. The final sale price would then be discounted $150,000 for every set of 50 full-time jobs created by Sept. 30, 2020.
GRSI, which has a 15-year world licensing agreement for the development of a special process for recycling tires, plans to create 25 jobs.
As part of the START-UP NY program, all of the companies are vetted and sponsored by the college and must submit at least a general outline of how they might work together.
“Each of them in some way or another ties into the other occupants, and they tie into the academic mission of SUNY Cobleskill, which has taken on a distinct ecological and environmentally friendly sort of agenda,” said Cherry.
Evans said the college takes an open-minded approach to the vetting process, embracing a range of fields, from food processing and distribution to agricultural science and software development for business applications. In the end, the idea is for the businesses to offer internships and training opportunities, as well as help design courses and programs that better prepare students to directly enter a given industry.
“All of these companies have really jumped at the opportunity to do something like that,” he said. “There really is, ultimately, such a wide variety of companies poised to move into that space that it’s really going to provide a lot of benefits to a lot of programs here.”
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