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Foss: SI Group story isn't over

Foss: SI Group story isn't over

Company has said that its headquarters will remain in the Capital Region
Foss: SI Group story isn't over
The SI Group on Balltown Road in Niskayuna is pictured in 2015.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

When a private investment firm based in New York City purchased the SI Group last fall, the Niskayuna company indicated that little would change as a result of the sale. 

A company spokeswoman told the Gazette that the 112-year-old chemical manufacturer would remain headquartered in Niskayuna, with the same local facilities and workforce.

Less than a year later, we now know that's not true. 

Some might say the writing was on the wall when SK Capital Partners bought the SI Group, founded in 1906, from its local owners, the Wright Family. 

And it probably was. 

But Tuesday's announcement still came as a surprise, and also a disappointment. 

Approximately 200 people are employed at the SI Group's headquarters, and the loss of those jobs is a blow for Niskayuna.

But the news also hurts on a symbolic level.

The SI Group has always been closely identified with Schenectady County, and its impressive 80-plus acre campus has long been a big part of the landscape. The departure of a prominent business from its longtime home can leave a lasting hole in a community. 

But here's the thing: The news could be much, much worse. 

The SI Group has said that its headquarters will remain in the Capital Region, and although the exact location has not been disclosed, this means that Niskayuna's loss will likely be some other community's gain. 

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see the SI Group's workforce stay in the area than be shipped off to another part of the country or world. 

Though there's always a chance -- perhaps a slight chance, but still, a chance -- that the company will stay in Schenectady County. 

Ray Gillen, who chairs the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, told the Gazette that "we're going to do everything we possibly can to retain these jobs in Schenectady County."   

Whether Metroplex's efforts will be successful remains to be seen. 

But I wouldn't count Gillen and his staff out. 

The SI Group has offered some clues as to what it's looking for. 

In an emailed statement, the company said it wants a new site that "better fits its employee base" and that "We will invest in this new workspace so it reflects our values and culture, and we expect that our new location will afford us accessibility to other businesses, restaurants and general liveliness during the business day, creating an opportunity for all employees to enjoy work-life balance and be active members of the community." 

It's easy to imagine plenty of places in the Capital Region that might fit this description, including some right here in Schenectady County.

As for the SI Group campus, it seems like a strong candidate for redevelopment.

The location is a good one, and might be attractive to housing developers looking to build in a community that's mostly built-out. This is not a brownfield that will take years to clean up and redevelop, and I doubt it will sit empty for too long. 

The SI Group's announcement probably struck a lot of Schenectady County residents as bad news. 

But there are reasons for optimism.

This story isn't over, and I'm eager to see what happens next. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.   

 

 

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