Capital Region — Schenectady’s planned new sewage pump station in the Stockade neighborhood won a $5 million grant Tuesday, and a planned pharmaceutical factory in Rotterdam secured $4 million.
The awards were the largest by far in the Capital Region under the Regional Economic Development Council program. The state’s 10 regional councils divided $763 million in grants announced Tuesday in Albany.
With a total of $67 million, the Capital Region was on the low end of the recipients’ list. One of the higher totals — $85.4 million — will go to the neighboring Mohawk Valley Region.
In the east end of the Mohawk Valley Region, major awards include:
- $5 million for vertical greenhouses at SUNY Cobleskill;
- $2 million for Pioneer Windows to expand its Johnstown factory;
- $2 million for Montgomery County to relocate several offices out of the Mohawk River flood plain;
- $1 million for water system improvements in Sharon Springs;
- $1 million for sewage plant upgrades in the village of Middleburgh.
In the Capital Region REDC, other major grants included:
- $1.7 million to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for enhanced marketing and two repair projects;
- $1.7 million for renovation of a vacant building on Congress Street in downtown Troy;
- $1.5 million for redevelopment of South Street in Glens Falls;
- $1.14 million for the Urban Grow Center in Troy;
- $1 million for wastewater treatment improvements in the town of Bolton on Lake George;
- $1 million for a regional biosolids facility in Albany;
- $995,000 for upgrades of the Times Union Center.
The Rotterdam pharmaceutical factory would be a venture of PiSA BioPharm, the U.S. subsidiary of PiSA Farmacuetica, a Mexican company formed in 1945 that has 18 industrial plants and more than 18,000 employees worldwide.
The factory it wants to build in the Rotterdam Corporate Park would be its first in the United States. It will cost more than $66 million, total 187,500 square feet and employ more than 100 people.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Authority has been working closely with PiSA on the proposal, though it is not extending any financial incentives of its own. Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said all needed approvals are in place for the plant, agreements will be signed and work will probably begin in January. But the factory won’t be up and running in 2019 or possibly even in 2020.
“It’s a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical plant,” he said. “It’s a complex plant to build. It’s at least 18 months if not 24 months to build.”
The PiSA plant will be part of a large and growing medical/pharmaceutical sector in the Capital Region, said Andrew Kennedy, head of the regional economic development agency Center for Economic Growth.
The state Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center long ago created a focus on public health and is in line for a $750 million rebuild. Drugmaker Regeneron is planning an $800 million expansion that will add 1,500 jobs in Rensselaer County. Albany Molecular Research remains headquartered in Albany after a merger. Angiodynamics moved its headquarters to Latham. Albany Medical Center opened a biomedical business incubator. Taconic Biosciences continues to grow.
“This is something that we haven’t stumbled into,” Kennedy said, adding that the REDC made life sciences a focus in the Capital Region.
“This investment had multiple opportunities outside this region,” he said of PiSA, which also was considering Texas and North Carolina proposals. The existing medical industry in the Capital Region, the proximity to Boston and New York City, the availability of space, the quality of water supply and the $5 million state incentive all combined to land the project, Kennedy and Gillen said.
Schenectady property taxpayers caught a $5 million break Tuesday, said General Services Commissioner Paul LaFond.
The city is under state mandate to improve its riverfront pumping station in the Stockade, the largest in the city’s sewage system. It was damaged in previous floods and is prone to further damage from future ice buildups and water flow.
The latest estimate of the cost of a replacement is $12 million, LaFond said, and the state green light to move forward with the project is anticipated in spring.
The current facility, which was built as a drinking water pumping facility in the early 1900s, contains three pumps that can each move 9 million gallons a day. That’s more than enough for the average daily use of the city and nearby suburban areas, which is only 5 to 6 million gallons a day — if there is no rain or other sudden influx of water. There’s so much external infiltration in the city’s old sewage pipes that the system is unable to handle any large influx of surface water, and it winds up dumping raw sewage into the Mohawk River.
A well-functioning Schenectady sewage treatment plant also is important to areas of Glenville, Scotia, Niskayuna and Rotterdam, LaFond said. That becomes a selling point to businesses considering setting up here, Gillen said.
“The city’s plant is really a regional asset,” he said.
Montgomery County will use the REDC grant to move its Department of Public Works to higher ground in the Glen Canal View Business Park. The current facility is in deteriorated condition and has been flooded repeatedly, according to County Executive Matthew Ossenfort.
Each time the river crests, DPW personnel must evacuate their equipment, slowing any storm response they need to undertake as well as placing the equipment in danger.
“The $2 million for facilities relocation was a very pleasant surprise,” Ossenfort said.
The county’s Business Development Center also is moving out of the flood zone and over to Glen. Other government functions will not relocate, Ossenfort said: “There’s certain things that have to remain.”
Montgomery County projects secured several other grants Tuesday, the largest of which was $750,000 for the Fort Plain sewer system.
But Ossenfort also was excited about some of the smaller grants, including a $100,000 boost for the county’s first modern craft brewery: Eisenadler Brauhaus in Nelliston, which will specialize in Bavarian-style beers.
There are also three projects that will provide better connection to the Mohawk River/Erie Canal, which has been a priority for Ossenfort as a quality-of-life issue to attract more visitors and new residents: $95,359 for signs for the Erie Canalway Water Trail; $148,740 for a kayak-share program in Fonda, St. Johnsville, Canajoharie and Amsterdam; and $150,000 for a waterfront boardwalk and community space at the Chalmers Mill site revitalization in Amsterdam.
The $5 million grant to Empire State Greenhouses will assist with the cost of a 290,000-square-foot, $83 million vertical greenhouse project on Coby Farm at SUNY Cobleskill.
It will operate year-round, support 75 full-time jobs, be powered with renewable energy, grow mushrooms and medicinal crops, and will rotate common crops rapidly to take advantage of market price fluctuations.
SUNY Cobleskill itself got a $625,000 REDC grant for its Farm and Food Business Incubator to support services, materials and staffing for five years in partnership with CADE.
“SUNY Cobleskill is committed to building public-private partnerships to enhance community and economic vitality in rural New York,” college President Marion Terenzio said via email. “We are excited that initiatives with partners like ESG and CADE have been recognized as worthy of support, and extend our thanks to REDC.
“At SUNY Cobleskill, agriculture is at the intersection of innovation and learning. These projects will not only be economically beneficial to our region, they will also provide boundless applied learning opportunities to our students, working in concert with our faculty experts.”