The biggest collaborator with Metroplex — probably in number of projects and certainly in value — has been the Galesi Group, formerly of Rotterdam, now based in Schenectady.
Galesi has taken the lead on everything from the MVP headquarters to the Center City building where Metroplex has its headquarters to the transformational Mohawk Harbor development, which at $500 million is the largest project Metroplex has been involved in.
There is no special relationship between the two, Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said, adding that Metroplex had designated prefered developers before he took over, but does not now.
“We work with everybody and anybody. Our definition of ‘preferred developer’ is anyone who wants to invest a dollar or more in Schenectady,” he said.
(On the flip side, Metroplex turns down requests for assistance at least once a week, generally because they would be investments in equipment, not improvements to the city.)
Gillen said he doesn’t know how much Galesi has invested in projects across Schenectady County.
Galesi CEO David Buicko also didn’t know offhand.
“A lot!” he said, offering a rough guess of $800 million.
Galesi is highly successful, and operates in many states and regions, so one might reasonably wonder why it needs financial incentives, or why it doesn’t undertake projects elsewhere if Schenectady is too expensive without incentives.
Galesi Group started in upstate New York 49 years ago, maintains significant operations here and all but one member of its senior leadership team lives here, Buicko said, so it never was going to relocate to a less expensive Sun Belt state.
But he noted that cities are more expensive places to operate. It cost much more to build a downtown garage for MVP, he said, than it would have to pave over a suburban green field for a parking lot.
“We tend to focus on how to level the playing field, especially when you’re building in cities.”
More on Metroplex at 20:
- Downtown greatly changed after 20 years of Metroplex
- Ray Gillen is county’s tireless development leader
- Over $140 million invested so far by Metroplex
- Schenectady County lags on some economic metrics
- Photos: 20 years of Metroplex: Before and After
Much of what Galesi Group has done over the years has been these reuses of existing sites, most notably the locomotive factory it demolished to build Mohawk Harbor and its marquee tenant, Rivers Casino & Resort.
Metroplex, Buicko said, has had such a large impact over the years in part because of its dependable revenue stream. “The other thing that is a big selling point is one-stop shopping,” he added. Informal advice, a tour, funding assistance, help with negotiations and regulatory assistance are all available from the same six-person team, anywhere in the county.
“That was probably one of the reasons we got the casino, too,” Buicko said. “Their staff, they’re all really good economic development people that see the end zone.”