As round three of Gov. Cuomo’s regional council initiative heats up, state officials on Tuesday toured Schenectady to see firsthand how state funds helped previous winners and could also spell success for one developer hoping to lure a film studio to the city’s riverfront.
A team of state agency commissioners, including Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito, New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quinones and Secretary of State Cesar Perales, kicked off the day with a meeting at Proctors Theater, where the Capital Region Economic Development Council gave a formal presentation on the region’s progress, achievements and priority projects in the third round of the statewide competition.
“They tour each region throughout this process,” said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen. “So we were glad to have them in Schenectady, because there’s a lot of recognition in the state for things that have been done downtown and across the city.”
Proctors officials gave a tour of the historic theater and the improvements that were made to its ceilings, walls and seating areas thanks to a $100,000 award from the competition’s first round in 2011.
The team, which traveled by bus Tuesday, also stopped at a few downtown locales like the newly constructed Transfinder headquarters on State Street before heading over to the former American Locomotive Co. site off of Erie Boulevard. The 60-acre riverfront site has undergone extensive environmental remediation and infrastructure work and will eventually be home to a hotel, office and retail space, a bike path, a marina and maybe even a film studio.
It’s the film studio that local officials were touting at Tuesday’s stop along the Mohawk River. Pacifica Ventures, a Santa Monica-based entertainment company, wants to build a $68.9 million television and film studio on 10 acres of the old Alco site and is hoping for a $15 million state grant through the regional council competition to make it happen.
The Alco site already won $479,735 in round one of the competition and has been designated a round three priority project.
Capital Region Economic Development Council Co-chairman James Barba grew up in the area and remembers driving by the Alco site when locomotives were still being made there.
“I haven’t been here in recent years, and while I was familiar with the Alco proposal and riverfront redevelopment plans, to see it up close like this is to really understand how important this project is to Schenectady and to the region,” he said.
The last stop of Tuesday’s bus tour was the Railex facility inside the Rotterdam Corporate Park. Here, state officials heard from Railex Senior Vice President Paul Esposito about how the growing transportation logistics and distribution company has been adding jobs in the area and capturing a larger piece of the market share for East-to-West Coast and Southeastern U.S. distribution.
Railex was awarded $1 million in round two of the state’s regional council competition last year to expand its multimodal center in Rotterdam by 64,000 square feet.
“This facility is just fascinating,” said Barba from inside the chilly distribution facility Tuesday. “To think that by rail, these food products can come all across the country to Rotterdam and then get distributed from here is terrific. But what would be even more terrific is if we could load those empty cars up now with New York state goods and send them back out. And that’s what we’re working on.”
So far, the Capital Region has won $113 million in state support for 172 projects in the first two rounds of the regional council initiative. This year, 10 regions across the state are competing again for up to $25 million each and “top performer” status. The remaining regions will compete for the balance of $25 million.