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What you need to know for 01/20/2018

One troubled tech park in Malta

One troubled tech park in Malta

What if they built it and nobody came?

One could argue that GlobalFoundries, as well as the privately owned Luther Forest Technology Campus of which it is a part, should have been located in or near one of the Capital Region’s struggling cities.

Then, all those trees would still be standing in Luther Forest, and pretty, rural areas of Saratoga and Washington counties wouldn’t be threatened by sprawl. The campus might also be full and thriving, rather than empty and almost bankrupt. But it is where it is, so the question now should be how to get those tech-related companies that were anticipated when it was built to actually come.

If George Pataki were still in the Executive Mansion and Joe Bruno in the Senate majority leader’s seat instead of legal jeopardy, there wouldn’t be a problem. The two would simply have funneled money to the park and technology companies that would occupy it, as they did with $100 million to initially develop the park and $1.2 billion in grants and tax credits to lure GlobalFoundries. But under two Democratic governors since 2007, the park has been left to fend for itself.

And it has not done well. One reason is a zoning law adopted by the town of Malta in 2004, when the park was built, that prohibits tax breaks for businesses there. The idea was to protect local taxpayers. This might have made sense at a time when the state was shoveling money at the campus. But now all those shovel-ready sites sit empty, with all their potential for jobs, while other governments routinely grant such tax breaks.

The Malta Town Board should reconsider the tax breaks, while still insisting that any new companies getting them be tech-related. It’s too early to give up on technology companies, with their generally high-paying jobs and clean operations, and just fill up the park with any kind of business that will come.

The town has also been getting pressure to allow tax breaks and be more lenient about uses from the economic development corporation that runs the park and from Saratoga County, which offered to take over responsibility for maintenance of the park’s interior roads in return. The county hired a consultant who agreed that tax incentives are needed to attract new companies, especially when such incentives are being offered nearly everywhere else.

At the same time, the consultant may have come up with a solution. He said technology companies tend to cluster around universities, and Hudson Valley Community College has a technology center in the park. This could qualify it for Gov. Cuomo’s Start-Up New York, which lets companies that locate near colleges and are associated with their mission operate tax-free for up to 10 years.

There’s no guarantee the state would go for it, but Saratoga County economic development officials should at least explore the possibility.

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