Just a few months after about 200 state Department of Transportation workers vacated their downtown offices, county officials are preparing to welcome a few hundred workers from another state agency.
More than 300 state Workers’ Compensation Board employees will move into the recently vacated building at 328 State St. in mid- to late July. Those workers will be met with a slew of welcomes from local merchants on day one.
“This is a big boost for downtown,” said Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen. “They’re eagerly awaited, and everyone’s excited by this. We want to make it a smooth transition for them and show them that downtown is a great place to work.”
The Metroplex board reviewed a new “welcome website” for the workers at its monthly meeting Wednesday night. The site, www.welcomeworkerscomp.com, is pretty much what it sounds like, with hearty welcome messages and a few downtown bragging points thrown in for good measure.
The county, city and Metroplex designed the website to include information on commuting to the former DOT regional headquarters building at the corner of State and Broadway, as well as information on parking, city attractions, restaurants, shops and other services.
The Workers’ Compensation Board relocation was announced in February, just two weeks after the state announced it would be moving DOT headquarters to Colonie as part of its restacking efforts.
Although losing loyal DOT customers first dismayed local businesses like Ambition and Nico’s Pizza, the chance to win over new customers was viewed as a welcome opportunity. After all, many of the DOT workers were field agents who spent most of their time away from their headquarters and so were not regular downtown business patrons.
“We’re told that the Workers’ Comp folks will really be here,” said Gillen. “People come to them for meetings and hearings, so we actually expect there to be more street and foot traffic from Workers’ Comp than state DOT.”
Additional employees will relocate after the initial move is completed, bringing the local workforce to as many as 500 employees.
“We were very proactive once we heard about the state’s restacking efforts,” said Gillen, “and we knew that the DOT building is really, some argue, the best state space in the region. It’s a great facility in a great location.”
The real welcome begins once the state employees move here from their current site on Park Street in Albany.
Proctors, which is practically next door to their new office space, will welcome the workers in July with a marquee message. Local merchants will provide discounts, coupons and other specials to greet the incoming personnel. Many of these will be displayed prominently in their windows.
The Chamber of Schenectady County and Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation will have welcome packets on their desks the day they arrive.
Metroplex board member Bill Chapman wanted to know when and where the welcome party would be held.
“Oh no, there will be no welcome party,” said Gillen. “They are state workers, you know. So, no party.”