SCHENECTADY — Two major Capital Region industrial employers are on the verge of relocating their office operations: SI Group from Niskayuna to Mohawk Harbor and Momentive Performance Materials from Waterford to SI Group’s current Niskayuna home.
The two moves are expected to be finalized shortly, possibly even this week.
If they come off as planned, they will represent a major coup for the county’s economic development apparatus, which has been trying for years to get SI Group to stay within Schenectady County while simultaneously finding a new occupant for its sprawling Balltown Road campus in Niskayuna.
Closed-door negotiations became public Wednesday night, when the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority board met and approved more than $1 million in assistance for the two companies to make the transitions.
“Both of these projects are still subject to final authorization of the two companies involved,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said before the vote.
As the proposal stands, SI Group would sell its 81-acre campus and its 127,400 square feet of structures to Momentive.
SI Group would move to 19,655 square feet of leased space on the ground floor of the River House apartment building on the northern Schenectady waterfront. Momentive would move about 200 employees to Balltown Road.
Momentive would keep all manufacturing operations in Waterford but potentially would seek to put the extensive open space on its new campus to other uses, Gillen said. Details will be disclosed at a later date.
The two chemical companies have extensive roots in the region. SI Group, previously Schenectady International, was formed as the Schenectady Varnish Company in 1906. Momentive is a General Electric spinoff formerly known as GE Silicones. SI has a factory in Rotterdam Junction, Momentive has a factory in Waterford.
If the deals go through, Metroplex will provide a $175,000 grant to SI Group; a $150,000 grant to the Galesi Group, owner of Mohawk Harbor, toward the estimated $2.5 million cost to finish and fit out the long-vacant space at The River House; and $750,000 to Momentive to assist with relocation.
The vote to aid Momentive was unanimous. The vote to assist the SI Group was not. Board member Neil Golub cast the lone dissenting vote.
In July 2019, SI Group announced its intentions to sell its Niskayuna campus and relocate. In December 2019, the Golub Corporation, then operator of the Price Chopper/Market 32 supermarket chain, agreed to lease vacant space in its 240,000-square-foot Nott Street headquarters to SI Group. But four months later, SI group, struggling with the worldwide pandemic, took the Niskayuna campus off the market and said it would stay put.
Golub Corp. let SI out of the lease at the time, and Neil Golub said Wednesday that SI Group President David Bradley, agreed to come back when he was ready to relocate.
But SI Group did not.
“So I’m reticient about approving money for SI moving to this location,” Golub said. “This really was a backhanded shot to my company.”
The Nott Street headquarters — now home to Northeast Grocery Inc., parent company of the merged Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Markets — is also owned by Galesi Group. It has been a supermarket headquarters since it was built over a decade ago.
Fellow Metroplex board member Steven Rifenburg asked whether it wasn’t a conflict of interest for Neil Golub to be involved in the matter as a Metroplex board member. (Metroplex had agreed in 2019 to aid SI Group’s abortive move from Balltown Road to Nott Street to the tune of $425,000.)
Gillen replied that to the best of his recollection, Golub had recused himself from all aspects of the move involving the family-owned company’s headquarters.
Gillen told Golub that letting SI Group out of the lease when COVID hit was very generous; Golub replied that he didn’t want to get into a legal battle with a major employer that could move out of the county, which Gillen said he appreciated.
Gillen also said that companies are now looking for the most appealing spaces they can find to entice their employees back to working in person.
The ground floor of the River House backs up to a deck overlooking Mohawk Harbor and the river beyond. Existing tenants include a craft brewery and wine bar.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Balltown Road site as the headquarters of SI Group. The headquarters previously was relocated to Texas.