Officials see jobs on horizon

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SAUQUOIT — Investments made to attract high-tech jobs to the Mohawk Valley are going to pay dividends — jobs — within the next several years.

That was the message for local government officials from SUNY Polytechnic Institute Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Geer and County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. at this week’s meeting of the Oneida County Association of Towns. They gave their views on what it means to have electronics company AMS AG making computer chips in Marcy and GE Global Research becoming the anchor tenant at the Computer Chip Commercialization Center that’s under construction on the adjacent SUNY Poly campus.

“These are large enough investments to move the needle in the community,” Geer said of the nanotechnology facilities that will be ramping up over the next three years. Several thousand well-paid jobs over time are anticipated.

He said steps taken to develop the site that’s suitable for a computer chip plant and build a facility nearby to foster collaborative research and development with industry partners made it possible for AMS and GE to even consider locating in the Mohawk Valley. Led by Mohawk Valley EDGE, the Marcy Nanocenter has been under development since the late 1990s

With assurances that the right space is available now, there’s abundant and accessible water and electricity, and infrastructure, like sewers, is in place, there was much to offer, Geer said.

“That means you can have the conversation” with companies looking for new locations, he told the gathering at Orchard Hall.

As for jobs, Geer said GE will begin with upwards of 500 employees with plans to double in size over 10 years. He said AMS will have about 700 jobs when full production is reached in five years. He then predicted, based on what has happened elsewhere when computer chip facilities were built, that AMS will announce expansion plans even before its Marcy plant hits full production.

The Marcy site has space for three chip plants.

There’s also the positive spillover effect on businesses that supply goods and services.

He said salaries at AMS will likely be in the range of $50,000 to $120,000, adding that the average pay at a mature chip plant is about $90,000.

Geer said around 50 percent of the AMS jobs can be filled by workers with two-year college degrees and the remainder by mostly four-year degrees.

“You won’t see a ton of Ph.D.s,” he said, referring to people holding doctorate degrees.

Geer said the breakdown of degrees for the GE center won’t be significantly different.

He said the AMS plant should be in limited production within 2 1/2 years. Construction will start in 2016, creating 500 temporary jobs.

“We’ve got some exciting things happening around the community,” said Picente. “When you talk about nano, everyone wants to to know ‘when.’ Well, it is here.”

The county executive said the arrival of nanotechnology could reverse population trends in the county. He said the decline experienced over several decades be turned around, speculating that more young people might remain in the area after finishing college and others might move here from outside of the area.

There were several questions from the audience about whether the water supply was adequate.

“We do have enough water,” said Picente. “There’s plenty of water for development.”

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