If you want to be in the center of Tech Valley, the day is coming when you’ll need to move to Fort Plain.
The state’s top elected officials this week shoved like rugby players to announce approval of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit so that wetlands can be filled, in pursuit of plans for an expensive new computer chip complex in Marcy, just north of Utica.
It was the kind of glory-hunger that once went with developments at the Saratoga County site where GlobalFoundries is located — but that was nearly a decade ago, when Republicans held the governorship as well as led the state Senate.
Now, GlobalFoundries is hiring faster than a bordello before Mardi Gras, but the Luther Forest Technology Campus could still use a few million dollars — if not a few tens of millions — in infrastructure. State money does not seem to be forthcoming.
State cash is flowing to the other end of the Mohawk Valley, though. Whether that has anything to do with Democrats now being in charge, I couldn’t say.
The Nano-Utica project will eventually be a $1.5 billion public-private computer chip complex affiliated with Albany’s College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering, which recently merged with the SUNY Institute of Technology in Marcy. It sounds promising, and there’s no disputing that Utica needs the jobs.
But as with all these projects, there’s a lot of time-consuming details to smooth out after the glowing press conferences end.
Within that context, the Army Corps permit is a major step. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office got a release out Wednesday, even though it was the same day the New York Times released a massive story about Cuomo’s manipulation of the Moreland Commission. (We were shocked, of course.) Good for them. About keeping their focus on economic development, I mean.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also rushed out statements of praise, and Schumer even claimed personal intervention with the Army Corps. Still, construction can’t start until the town of Marcy Planning Board approves plans.
The Army had insisted for years that it couldn’t issue a federal wetlands disturbance permit until it knew who would build on the site. That condition was met last August when the nanocollege agreed to be the developer.
Under the ACE’s conditions for allowing destruction of wetlands at Marcy, the Oriskany Flats Wildlife Management Area will get 13 acres of wetlands improvements, and there will be improvements in storm-damaged areas in the Mohawk River watershed.
Once the Marcy facility it built, the state has a tentative deal for six tenants: Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions Inc., Sematech, Atotech, IBM, Lam Research and Tokyo Electron. They would set up research there, creating more than 1,000 jobs. That sounds economically transformative for the western Mohawk Valley, and even the wood frogs of Oriskany Flats think so.
The plan is for Nano-Utica to do further work on the 450-mm silicon wafers now being developed in Albany, which if successful will be more efficient than the 300-mm wafers now commonly used to make computer chips.
John Munter of Middle Grove is pretty well known as a commercial/industrial builder around Saratoga County, since he’s been at it for 40 years. He and his family also a couple of years ago bought the Grande Industrial Park in Saratoga Springs, so they’re in the middle of the county’s industrial development efforts, too. He’s been on a lot of community boards, and even helped build schools in Kenya.
Under the odd fact department, I knew he was a graduate of Clarkson University (B.S. in physics, 1962). His Munter Enterprises in recent years put a lot of volunteer time and effort into building a new nature trail system along the Raquette River next to the Potsdam campus. For that work, the college dubbed them the Munter Trails and last weekend he was awarded a Golden Knight, the highest award Clarkson gives its alumni. Congratulations to him. I’ve walked it and it is a pretty cool trail system.